By An Anonymous Executive Director
Dear Board: I used to receive a $3,500 bonus every year but because the last board president didn’t share any records with you, I no longer receive it. I quit.
Dear Board: Today I was screamed at for 45 minutes by one of our dads. Why? Because you decided over my objections that the therapy assistance program budget of $1,000 should be cut last month. In the same board meeting you decided to donate $5,000 to another nonprofit entity. I tried to offer every bit of support and creative alternatives to this dad to no avail; he walked away from our organization feeling betrayed and heartbroken (and he doesn’t know about the arbitrary donation). I feel betrayed and heartbroken, too. I quit.
Dear Board: It’s 3 days away from the Buddy Walktm and the Board President called me to demand that the 2,000 walk t-shirts be changed…from yellow to green. I quit.
Dear Board: One of you came by our headquarters today, spoke with one of my employees without my knowledge, quizzing them about their fellow employees’ competence and then threatened to fire one of those employees. I quit.
Dear Board: For six months, I and a dozen volunteers have designed a new education model for families to work one on one with them to improve their children’s IEPs and educational outcomes. This was one of the top three priorities in last year’s strategic planning approved by you. In addition to designing the model, my team and I have secured more than $20,000 in grants to fund the new project and we are ready to launch next week. Our volunteers have put in 375 hours and I have put in 383 hours personally. You should note that more than 200 of my hours on this project have been on evenings and weekends—beyond the standard 40-hour work week. Well, last night you heard a workshop speaker we hosted mention a different model and so you think we should change to the other model. I quit.
Many of us have read or heard a lot about the roles and responsibilities of boards, but as an experienced nonprofit professional, I am here to tell you that your most important job is to ensure your CEO is happy and satisfied with their job.
How to do this? 1) Trust them to lead, stop micromanaging 2) Respect your staff’s recommendations 3) Don’t change direction weeks or days before a major event or program 4) Stick with your own strategic plan even in the face of distractions 5) Reward excellence…with a thank you note, a bonus at the holidays, a bottle of wine or a simple acknowledgment at the board meetings and finally 6) if you don’t want to hear those ”I quit” words, talk to your CEO and ask what you can do as a board to help them feel more satisfied or appreciated in their job. Just like you assess and evaluate your CEO’s performance, do you ever ask them to give YOU feedback on ways to improve in your interactions with staff?
Most executive directors of local Down syndrome support groups LOVE their jobs, but just like in any other job, there are long days, long nights, even longer weekends, unhappy and underserved families, tough decisions that result in not always being liked and of course not a lot of pay. YOU are the key to making us feel appreciated and respected for a job we do well with limited resources. YOU, dear Board, can do this for your CEO, and more importantly, for the good of your entire organization… and I promise it will go far in retaining us.
(Special thanks to our guest blogger who will remain anonymous.)