Defining the right people for your organization is more than simply meeting a list of criteria or qualifications. The right people are those who can use the values and culture of the organization to move it in the direction articulated in its plan.
The right people aren’t all the same. In fact, the board and staff are likely to make better decisions if a diversity of perspectives exists. Recruiting and retaining the right people ensures that each person believes in and is connected to the purpose and values of the organization, is aligned with them, and has a passion for the mission. That is the glue that holds them together.
Since nonprofits require a board, and if sustainable, a staff, then all individuals must agree on what should be done and who does what – while at the same time remaining in balance and getting along. When a nonprofit doesn’t have the right people at the right time, working together, all will spend too much time on conflicts, leaving less time to focus on mission. Therefore, to have balance you have to start with the right people.
Most board members volunteer because of their commitment to mission. However, a few volunteer exclusively to raise funds, and none volunteer to deal with controversy. Like board members, most nonprofit professionals work in the sector because of their passion for mission-based work. But if they have conflict with co-workers, fewer resources than they need, or if they don’t have a good working relationship with the board, then they will be less effective.
Maintaining a balanced and healthy relationship between the board and staff is essential. This balance is best understood through the knowledge that the relationship between the board and executive director or chief executive officer is a partnership, not a hierarchy.
Share with us how you balance your board/staff relationships. What are your greatest challenges and how have you overcome them?
Dennis McMillian is President of The Foraker Group, a nonprofit capacity building organization based in Alaska, and the author of Focus on Sustainability: A Nonprofit’s Journey.