Last time, I told a story about a board that fired the executive director, derailing a merger deal (after months of working things out) at the very moment both boards were ready to sign the agreement. I believe you probably concluded that the board did harm, not just to the executive, but to the organization. For that I am sorry. I’m not sorry because it might be true, I’m sorry because of how often I hear negative stories about boards! The main point I intended to convey was, not how boards are problematic, but how much they matter! Boards are critically important in the process of exploring, negotiating, etc. a nonprofit strategic alliance, including mergers. So, to make up for this mistake, I want to tell a story of a courageous board.
Three (of five) board members of a senior community center approached me. The center had unexpectedly lost significant government funding and, even with increased fundraising, the bottom line was declining steadily. On top of that, the executive director (seeing the writing on the wall no doubt) had resigned. The board members, at first, believed the only option was to close the center. Then, they had the inspiration that another nonprofit serving seniors might be willing to take over the program if the finances could be worked out (e.g., renegotiate a contract, eliminate overhead). The board members I met with felt they had failed and were not hopeful, but, they were very committed to a better outcome. We were able to reframe their work from a “failure” perspective to a leadership perspective – leading to ensure the mission survived even if the organization didn’t. This way of looking at their challenge energized them anew. Because this small board stepped up, the program was saved. Within four months, a merger was achieved.
I am not naive about boards but there are enough negative voices. My goal is to bring you positive stories and insights about what works to inspire you to invest in unleashing the potential of your board! To that end, I want to hear your board success stories! Comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.