Do You Have a Vision? If You Don’t, Get One.

As I sit here sipping my Java Joe’s Breakfast Blend in a quiet little coffee shop by the beach, I am tortured by memories of my former life as a non-profit Development Manager.  I’m not sure how I linked the peaceful coffee shop and my post-traumatic stress disorder together since I never had a moment’s peace in the entire four years I played martyr but I think it must be the taste of the coffee that brings me back.  Especially since I had to develop an actual addiction to caffeine to pull myself together most days.

I believe we all trek through non-profit land because we honestly believe that we can make a positive impact in someone else’s life.  Clearly, none of us are in it for the money.  But you know the ages old story, a lack of funds equals the inability to hire more people, and we end up having more jobs than Ryan Seacrest would know what to do with.  Burnout rates are high and we begin to forget why we ever wanted to help make a change in the first place.

To add fuel to the already scorching inferno, we are forced to deal with anywhere from five to thirty board members with five to thirty different agendas, opinions and personalities.  Some are there because they have the resources and passion to help and others are there to throw parties and get their mug shots on the front page of the paper.  You need to ask yourself how much fun you’re REALLY having managing them.

But whose fault is it?  The board member who joined the cause for all the wrong reasons (or simply may not know what exactly is expected of them) or management for not having a clear picture of how successful they wanted their non-profit to be?  It’s easy to blame the board member since they seem to have no idea how difficult planning these special events and galas are but at what point is management going to ask for what they really want?  If you don’t have a profile of your perfect board member, you’re never going to have your perfect board member.  Additionally, if your current board members don’t know what you’re looking for, they’re going to continue to bring in any ol’ stray dog for you to reform and train.

Listen up, Management; you have got to start thinking about what’s good for your organization and the population you’re serving.  It does you absolutely NO good to spend your time managing your board members if they don’t have the same vision as you and your staff.  Now, if you want to spend your entire fiscal year planning special events that eat up staff time, energy and make you want to kill yourself just for the sake of a few socialites, that’s certainly a strategy (although not the most popular with staff).  Because we all know how much you love gathering items for silent and live auctions, dealing flaky vendors, spending 13 or more hours on your feet to only make a portion of what you spent putting the damn thing on in the first place, don’t you?

You need people to align with your vision.  If you don’t have one, get one.

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