How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Nonprofit Hell by Doña Keating
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Too many nonprofit boards of directors are suffering from an identity crisis. The crisis is that “who they are” is very often at odds with who or what they would like to become, and the disparity is a pitfall to achieving their charter mission. These split corporate personalities make for interesting, often humorous, and always insightful reading in a new book by Doña Keating that for many nonprofit boards will be like taking a long look in the mirror. What causes board identity refractions? Nonprofit boards fail to realize their spots and stripes, the kind of coterie they have assembled to lead their organizations. Many take refuge in their common 501(c)3 status. Yet each board has a distinct fingerprint. By understanding the “personality type” of a board, the values and priorities they tend to emulate, nonprofit boards can gain a profound sense of self-awareness and avoid suffering the missteps that are attributable to the wrong kind of group dynamics.
As Doña puts it, ”Too many boards become ineffective or frustrated when directors micromanage, or get lost (perhaps even hide) in the “Process” to the degree that achieving measurable results is compromised.”
What is necessary, advises Keating, is to “Re-calibrate at the 30,000 foot level, encouraging input from advisors and other community stakeholders who can provide needed perspective.”
“Decide who you want to be,” writes Doña. “Are you an executive or governing board that wants to focus on policy and set the direction of the organization? Or, are you a working board which attends to administration and even hands on duties? While there is a school of thought that all nonprofit boards are ultimately working boards, because both versions involve, well — work…the reality is too many boards become ineffective or frustrated when directors micromanage.”
Keating’s ”Typical Hell-Inducing Scenarios” each get their own symptom diagnosis and a prescription for remedying. They range among maladies with names like “Founder’s Syndrome,” “Rambling Meetings,” “Obstructionism,” “Silos” and “All Hammers and No Saws,” to name but a few.
Doña’s book is part handbook, part workbook, part case manual and part business diary stemming from the author’s combined 50-year history of providing information technology, policy, and management consulting. I judge it a highly business savvy yet uniquely personal narrative that takes you inside the boardrooms of so many nonprofit entities, you’re bound to recognize at least few versions of your own experience between the lines. [24x7]
Readers can preview and order the book online at http://www.amazon.com/dp/1478171049
“Process over Action”
Ego is prevalent in leadership, and nonprofit boards are no exception. While some directors are more than ready to jump in and execute on historically documented vision, others believe it imperative to ‘improve’ or ‘change’ the status quo – even if it’s working – so they can go away with an imagined feather in their cap.
As a result, board members are subjected to an endless stream of document review, planning sessions, and discussion surrounding the nonprofit’s infrastructure, vision, or mission – with little actually getting done. This is also a tactic used by board members who knew they signed up for a working board environment, but have decided along the way they don’t want to do the work.
Directors exhausted by this time consuming exercise no longer have the desire to roll up their sleeves, and forward movement is stunted. The next time you decide to dazzle the board by taking a page from the Arthur Anderson playbook, think again. Does your information really deliver the substance of the lofty subject matter it portends to explore? Or, does it instead represent a comparatively minor dent in the organisation’s oeuvre.