If there’s one thing that can drag down a small nonprofit, it’s a broken Board, especially when it’s your nonprofit’s first Board of Directors.
Maybe you’ve been there – busting your can to grow your small nonprofit and you’ve got Board members who don’t show up, don’t want to lift a finger to help, or even worse, try to micromanage you.
It’s a recipe for disaster, plus it’s frustrating as heck when your Board is supposed to be helping, not cause extra work for you!
I hear a LOT of complaints about Boards from Founders, especially those with new nonprofits. They need help and they expect Board members to step up (as they should).
But often, they don’t. Which leaves Founders hanging, doing all the work themselves, and wondering “Why do I have a Board anyway?”
Working with difficult Board members is one of the top complaints I hear. How many times have we heard the story of the Executive Director and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Board member?
Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but let’s face it – your Board can drive you nuts!
And for new nonprofits, your first Board of Directors can truly make or break your organization (and the Founder’s sanity too)!
Let’s look at what it takes to get your Board to do their job, step up to help, and stop causing problems.
Your Board exists to provide leadership for your nonprofit.
It works on paper, but in reality, most small nonprofits have some level of dysfunction with their Board.
Here are some statistics about Boards from research we’ve done on nonprofits that we’ve helped at Get Fully Funded:
- 25% of small nonprofits do not have more than 5 people on their board (that’s not enough people to get things done, especially if your Board is a working Board).
- Nearly half don’t have 100% Board giving (meaning some Board members are NOT giving financially to the organization they’re a leader of – what message does THAT send?).
- 32% have attendance issues (apathy in action – again sends the wrong message and makes it hard to get things done).
- 32% of Board members don’t respond in a timely fashion (basically ignoring their job as a trustee of the nonprofit).
- 40% of Board members DON’T participate in fundraising at all (which leaves the responsibility on the Founder and other volunteers).
And here’s the scariest data point of all: 100% of Founders are frustrated at some point in their first year with their Board!
We’re all human, and working with other people is bound to be frustrating at some point. But you need to learn to work with your Board because you’re just one person and can only grow your nonprofit so far by yourself.
When a Board does its job and individual Board members are engaged, it’s a beautiful thing!
It’s fun, people look forward to the meetings, they’re getting things done in between meetings, and they’re helping to raise money. Everyone is rowing in sync and the boat moves quickly across the water.
So, what does it take to effectively manage your Board when you realize you’re not getting what you want from your Board?
Here are 8 main issues most nonprofits face along with suggestions for handling them.
Your Board members are volunteers. They aren’t getting paid (or they shouldn’t be!) to serve.
That means that while you expect them to have the same commitment to the organization as you, they may not.
Your job is to give them the tools, training, and support they need to effectively do their job. It’s your job to keep them engaged. It’s your job to provide the structure within which they can work.
After all, you know more about what they’re supposed to do than they do.
So, help them out.
Try to create a Board culture where openness and honesty are valued, and you’ll have less headache and fewer issues to work through.
Here are the most common issues that nonprofit leaders face, along with suggestions for handling them.
Managing your first Board of Directors is important to the future of your nonprofit. This group of people will set the tone for future Boards to follow.
The good news is that you can give them the guidance they need to become the Board you want (you might even be able to turn them into a fundraising Board!). Set clear expectations and make sure that you keep lines of communication open between meetings. Treat them like the valuable volunteers they are. And thank them when they do their job well.
Take the time and effort to figure out how to manage YOUR Board and you will have long-term partners for your mission!
Why the First Board of Directors for your Nonprofit is so Important https://www.thebalancesmb.com/importance-of-nonprofit-first-board-of-directors-2501804
Setting up your Nonprofit’s Board of Directors https://www.501c3.org/setting-up-your-nonprofit/
How to leverage your nonprofit board’s donor network https://www.givesmart.com/blog/leverage-board-donor-network/