I don’t know why I get the shakes every time I remember what it was like to work in magical Non-Profit Land but I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s my therapist’s fault. I paid that hag a lot of money to erase any obvious signs of lasting damage. Clearly she was one of those dysfunctional nut jobs who only joined the profession to eradicate her own demons. Selfish.
My latest vision of derangement came to me when I was walking along the beach yesterday. I know, totally inopportune time. I was remembering what board meetings were like at the last non-profit I worked for and I’m pretty sure I started to break out in hives, or maybe it was the sand fleas just nibbling on me. Whatever, either way it was notably uncomfortable.
I had visions of my Executive Director running around like a meth-head right before board meetings would occur, screaming at the staff, stomping around like she was part of the Blue Man Group and freaking everyone out to the point of convulsions. Five minutes later as the members of the board started to arrive, she was the perfect picture of serenity and love.
She’d pour them coffee, she’d laugh at their stupid jokes, she’d praise their work on current projects (even though they’d accomplished approximately NOTHING) and she’d compliment their physical appearances (Botox much?). I accidently became bulimic during this time because I couldn’t stop vomiting over her behavior. I came to the conclusion that she was scared to death of losing her job and, for some inexplicable reason, was actually intimidated by them.
I think this happens a lot in non-profits where people are afraid to disagree or challenge their board members because they think their jobs will be on the line if they do. I’ve also been witness to staff being intimidated either by the social stature of their board members or over the amount of money they have. I often felt like I was part of some hidden camera-reality television show where I was the lead in a Tim Burton inspired social experiment.
I’ve never understood why people base someone’s worth on how much money they have. I mean, certainly it’s nice if your board members have a few important connections here and there and it’s a bonus if they can make the difference between securing a matching grant or not, but does that warrant a culture of fear and false adoration?
If your staff is afraid of your board members for whatever schizoid reason, you are not going to be successful at serving the populations you’re there to serve. Healthy non-profit’s stand on a platform of collaboration, utilizing the thoughts and ideas of everyone involved in the organization. Every opinion counts including those of your volunteers, interns, donors, board members AND staff.
There is a serious problem in your place of employment if there is a disconnect from any one group of people who can help you achieve your mission statement. So say what you mean and mean what you say. Speak your mind even when your opinion isn’t asked for and don’t be afraid of the consequences. There is no better way to serve the population you’re trying to serve than by being authentic, brave and unapologetic. They need you to lead, so go do it.