This past week I presented at the NATA conference with David A. Mersky and Rachel M. Woda. We knew there were interesting competing sessions, so we were pleasantly surprised with the strong turnout. I’d like to think this was based on the presenters and the firm’s reputation but I’m sure a lot of people were there for the topic. The official title was, The Role of the Executive Director in Congregational Governance: Managing relationships among clergy, lay leadership and staff. But, it could have been called, Strengthening Your Board, Staff and Clergy.
I would title it that because there are so many questions that remain about board and staff responsibilities within a nonprofit. In religious organizations, like synagogues, you also have to account for how clergy with their myriad responsibilities fit into the mix.
So, while I can’t provide the presentation in this short blog post, I would like to offer some thoughts. Here is a list of opportunities for you to determine, the $100 million question:
Do you know how to go about strengthening your board, staff and clergy?
We can offer simple recommendations like whether the board should be fundraising (they should be fundraising, starting with themselves), but you also have to have strategies for:
- Encouraging your board to respect your staff and their opinions
- Reminding the staff that coaching strategies may change behavior faster than constant reminders
- Board learning opportunities throughout the year (presenting a P & L– spend 15 minutes explaining how to read the statement –and how it represents the organizational priorities – for those who don’t work with them every day)
- Creating change with buy in from staff and the board
- Clergy’s responsibilities, like celebrate and commiserate, are useful when dealing with the board and staff as colleagues in addition to congregant relationships.
- Knowing that one board president is not always as strong as the last
- No one person can be in charge of everything (whether that is staff, a Board President or Clergy). Nonprofits are a group effort so spend time determining how to utilize your resources.
- The size of your board – too large or too small will affect whether you are engaging your board members or leaving them to drift off (among other things)
- Helping board members or staff see their role in creating the solution to the problems you are facing and that they may be causing
- Overworking your leadership (volunteer and staff) may help you achieve more in the short term. But, in the long term, staff will leave and volunteers will burn out.
- Moving forward with a decision when consensus was hard to find
- Innovating change. Nonprofits can no longer rely on the status quo for support, membership or involvement
- Engaging everyone in fundraising and development when not everyone is willing to ask others for money
This is not an all-encompassing list, and it is not intended to overwhelm you. Instead, it is designed to create a new dialogue around the staff table or at a board meeting about what you want to see change. You may want to initiate a strategic plan or a board retreat to help you focus in on your priorities. But don’t let another year go by without growing as individuals and as an organization.
If you think your nonprofit would benefit from our facilitating this process, email me today.
If you would like to work on improving your board without counsel, you can purchase one of our books by clicking here