Image credit: Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary – Photographer, Sheila Gauthier
I wanted to pop back in this month to share some recent observations and learnings from the nonprofit organizations and charities/societies that I’m fortunate to work with.
It seems more and more, that the lives of the executive directors, management, and staff are stretched thinner than ever before. Staff shortages, Covid, funding, and all of what has become ‘normal’ challenges are weighing heavier.
I am a strong proponent of clear lines between board and operations, and love the saying that I heard recently, that ‘a board should wrap their arms around the organization, but keep their noses out’.
Having said that, a board needs to do what the organization needs of it, and sometimes, the best way a board can support the organizations they govern is through committee work. Committees don’t need to be restricted to only board members. There are often community volunteers, sometimes experts in their field, who would make superb committee members, but are not interested in the commitment of being a long-term board member and with the obligations that go with the role. Sometimes, these volunteer committee members find they enjoy the organizational work so much they decide to join the board creating a win-win situation for all.
Just make sure all of your committees have a clearly defined purpose with specific deliverables. Consider the reporting structure of the committee based on the area of support they provide. If they are providing operational support it makes sense for them to report to the appropriate operations person; if they are providing board related support (non-operational like capital campaigns or sometimes fundraising), then reporting back to the board might be the better choice.
So, I encourage you to check that your bylaws do not restrict the type of member who can serve on your committees, and if allowed, reach out to your community for some exceptional support for your organizations through a richer and deeper committee makeup!
The other area I wanted to chat about was the use and implementation of your strategic plan. Your strategic plan should have a purpose, and a function, and should be front and center as a road map for your organization and for your board meetings.
Theoretically, your strategic plan was reached collaboratively by both board and staff – board because they are the ‘overseers’ of the organization, and staff because they are the ‘doers’ of the organization. Together, these two groups, each as important as the other, have both a finger on the pulse and a view to the future.
I suggest then, that the strategic plan become the basis of board meetings, and the reports that the board receives, or at the very least, a regular standing agenda item that gets reported on in terms of progress in meeting the objectives of the plan.
In the work I do in the strategic planning area, I like to attend a board meeting within 60 days of the completion of the strategic plan to help implement the plan in the regular board meeting process. Using the plan this way, management and staff know what is expected of them, and the board knows the progress that is being made on the objectives within the plan. If changes are needed, if something unexpected arises, both parties can accommodate those needs and pivot or alter course as best suits the organization.