They didn’t tell me that the organization is about to go bankrupt.
They didn’t tell me we didn’t have a pool of individual donors to support the organization’s fundraising efforts.
They didn’t tell me the organization’s largest funder decided to end funding after the current grant cycle.
They didn’t tell me the credit line was at its’ limit.
They didn’t tell me this Board refuses to fundraise.
They didn’t tell me half the Board quit in the last year.
They didn’t tell me they couldn’t get anyone to serve as the Board Chair.
They didn’t tell me it was this bad.
They didn’t tell me…
New nonprofit executive directors and new nonprofit Board members have shared the above sentiments with me over the last year. With a look of despair, desperation, and frustration, they are often amazed to discover the reality of their newest endeavor is quite different from the image that had been created and expected. In almost every situation, the individuals struggling with the new awareness of their organizational realities, overwhelmingly state they would not have taken the new position, relocated their families, or changed careers if, “They would have told me.”
I want to offer some simple advice to anyone who finds themselves as a party in the above equations – from the new board member/executive director, to the selection committee, to the current board/executive director. I believe everyone plays a role in telling and asking.
Ask these questions before you accept the position as a new Executive Director or Board Member:
What is the current financial situation of the organization?
What’s the projected financial position of the organization over the next 2-3 years?
What have been the organization’s most significant accomplishments over the last 2-3 years?
What challenges or concerns are on the horizon for the organization?
What are your organizational priorities for the next Fiscal Year?
What’s the most recent storm that the organization has been through, and how did they weather the storm?
Why do you want me on your team?
Tell the prospective Executive Director/Board Member the following before offering them the position:
The current financial situation of the organization.
The projected financial position of the organization over the next 2-3 years.
The organization’s most significant accomplishments over the last 2-3 years.
Challenges or concerns that are on the horizon for the organization.
Organizational priorities for the next Fiscal Year.
The most recent storm that the organization has been through and how you weathered the storm.
Why you want them on your team.
I’m sure you see the similarities – everyone owns some responsibility. The bottom line is to not make assumptions. Don’t assume people know what you know. Don’t assume documentation, strategic plans – budgets – policies – etc.., communicate the whole story. Don’t assume if something was “bad” they would tell you. Don’t assume people won’t accept a position if they know the depth of the organizational challenges. Transparency, curiosity, and thoroughness will help everyone make the best decision with eyes wide open.