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24 February 2015

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1
 February 24, 2015
 1

Let me tell you a short, sad story.

Once upon a time there was a nonprofit executive director that wanted to send out an appeal letter.

He engaged a consultant to write the appeal letter for him.

The consultant did so.

He showed it to the board.

They said, play your cards right and we’ll fund a fundraising staff person this year. But first, let us get this appeal letter shredded up and put back together.

Did any of those board members have fundraising experience?

Nope.

Was the new appeal letter a piece of crap?

Yep.

Was the executive director going to send it out anyway because he wanted a fundraising staff person?

You bet!

Sigh.

This is just one example of lousy board members messing up your fundraising. I’m sure you can think of other ways lousy board members have messed up your nonprofit.firing-lousy-board-members3

So I’m in the midst of reading Simone Joyaux’s new book, Firing Lousy Board Members.

If only I had had this book just a year ago!

Joyaux writes,  “The job of good and competent professionals-and ethical leaders-is to graciously and forcefully disengage from uninformed and ill-formed opinions.”

“Is everyone entitled to an opinion?” Seth Godin asks. “Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean we need to pay the slightest bit of attention. There are two things that disqualify someone from being listened to…Lack of standing…No credibility. An opinion needs to be based on experience and expertise.”

She says, “So you and I had better acquire and maintain that expertise and experience. And find board members who display that same respect.”

Then she inserts this cartoon, which I want to plaster in every nonprofit board room.

dilbert-opinions

How many times have you beat your head against a wall when a member of the leadership team shoots down what you know is standard fundraising best practices, for no other reason than, “I don’t like it”?

ARGH!!!

So, what will this book help you do?

It will help you learn more about the proper role of the board, which is governance, instead of approving your appeal letters or other donor communications.

It can give you ammunition to get your autonomy back, and not have to be so frustrated anymore.

If you are an executive director or board chair, you will like this book too. You do NEED this book.

Why?

Well, as Joyaux says, ask yourself, “How do we create a sustainable organization? How do we ensure good governance? How do we engage and retain the best people?

Now ask yourself: “How do you think other hard-working board members feel? How much time is spent compensating for these nonperformers?”

Guess what? Bad performance spreads like a virus. Badly performing board members frustrate and exhaust competent staff and board members. Good board members eventually leave.

So don’t chicken out! Address the problem. Monitor performance. Provide feedback. And fire those lousy board members before the contagion is widespread!

Joyaux delves into three kinds of problem board members you may have.

  • Unintentionally Lousy Performance
  • Unaware Lousy Performance
  • and Intentional Lousy Performance.

 

She helps you see what you can do to course-correct these board members, and when to cut them loose.

Simone Joyaux talks about how board members are different from the board, and they have different powers, and how just about everyone gets this wrong. This surprised me.

And she talks about the 19 things you can do as staff to help the board succeed. You probably didn’t even know HALF of these.

I really liked the end where she has an appendix where each board member can do a self-evaluation. There’s also a board composition evaluation tool, where you can see where your board might need some help. Finally, there’s a worksheet where you can compare board member performance expectations with actual board member performance. Whoa, right? I mean, can you imagine getting to do this with your board?

simone-joyaux-book

Like, they had real roles, real responsibilities, and needed to live up to them? Mind-BLOWN!

She also thoughtfully includes a CEO/Executive Director job description that’s useful. Why? Because often when boards are out of hand, the CEO is out of hand as well. And it can be because they don’t know what governance is, or how to dance that balance of power between what the board does and what they do. I personally have seen this at nonprofits that I worked for.

She also mentions that you should read a monograph called Governance is Governance by Ken Dayton, which I have linked for you here.

If you have some board members who are not working for you, this book can help you get them back on track, or gently show them the door. This book will help you create clear performance expectations for board members, and support them so that they can succeed.

For more details, please buy Simone Joyaux’s book, “Firing Lousy Board Members.”

I fully recommend it.

Full disclosure-a review copy was provided to me.
To read more about Simone Joyaux, please visit her website, http://simonejoyaux.com

One response on “Board members got you down? Here’s how to solve it.

  1. Sarah A. Morrigan says:

    As a board member I too have some continuing frustration over the board dysfunction. Much of the problem I see is that everyone seems to have a very different set of expectations and understanding about their roles. Some feel that they are only there to attend the board meetings and rubber-stamp everything; some feel that it is their legal and ethical duty to ensure that the organization is in a good financial and organizational health.