Dear board volunteers . . . I can’t do this all by myself.

mardi gras mask6DonorDreams blog is honored to be hosting the May 2013 Nonprofit Blog Carnival. The theme this month is “Dear board volunteer . . .” and the idea is “If you could write an anonymous letter to a nonprofit board about something they do that drives you crazy, what would that letter look like and what suggested solutions would you include?” If you are a blogger and would like more information on how to participate and submit a post for consideration, please click here to learn more.

I wanted to expand the Nonprofit Blog Carnival concept in May. So, I reached out to real non-profit people and asked them to also write an anonymous letter to their board volunteers. These people are executive directors, fundraising professionals, board members, donors, community volunteers, consultants and front line staff. I promised everyone anonymity in exchange for their submissions.

We will celebrate May’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Wednesday, May 29, 2013.

I hope you enjoy this real look at real issues that our community deals with on a daily basis.

Here is today’s letter:

Dear Board Volunteers:

First, let me say that I truly appreciate all the time, talent and treasure you give to our organization each year. That said, I must air my concerns regarding some practices that I see as undermining the functioning of our board and the ultimate success of our committees and fundraisers.

We have board committees designed to do work outside of the board meetings and then provide a written report to include in our board packet for review/approval at meetings. These committees are not functioning according to their design and reports are not being completed or submitted. As a matter of fact, few committees are even meeting unless I force the issue. Then I must type up the notes and follow-up on what is to be done.

New board members are learning the wrong way for committees to function. We developed the committee structure through a well thought out process….let’s use it.

You are all aware that we do not have a development person. So, it falls to me or the office manager to complete the tasks that you do not. While I understand that you are all busy, each committee chair could recruit community members to help with their committee. You can delegate and assign work to those folks. You can also check on your committee members completion of assignments.

Call/email/text your committee to stay in touch and remind them of their commitments. Get the job done!

When I am doing committee work, I am not doing the following:

  • writing grants,
  • completing billing or grant reporting,
  • marketing the agency, or
  • managing our staff and programs.

My job requires 50 hours a week to just keep my head above water. When I take on these other tasks, I am drowning.

I have no problem putting in the 60-70 hour weeks just before a fundraiser, but I cannot do this week in and week out in order to balance my every day responsibilities and those of the various committees. We need to work together to ensure the success of our organization.

With each board member renewing their commitment to their chosen committees, we can guarantee the success of each committee and fundraiser, so please do your part.

Let’s start this year with a great attitude and renewed motivation.

One sleep deprived exec

If you have some advice for the author of our anonymous letter, please share it in the comment box at the bottom of this post in a respectful manner.  If you want to submit an anonymous letter for consideration this month, please email it to me at the address in your signature block below.If you are a blogger looking to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and want to learn more, then please click here.


  1. Sorry, Erik – I agree with you most times but can’t go there on this one.

    Yes, ED’s are busy but so are Committee and Board members! We are the volunteers here!

    I am tired of being told how overworked our ED is and being beat up for not doing enough as a Board member. Lay off the volunteers! We also are working 50+ hours/week, then finding time to volunteer.

    1. Hey Julie. Thanks for weighing in. In reality, you are neither agreeing or disagreeing with me. I turned the DonorDreams blog over to my readers this month, and today’s post is from a real live executive director. It does not represent me or my opinions.

      With that being said, I think you bring up an AWESOME counterpoint to today’s post.

      Today’s topic speaks to a very delicate balancing act that takes place on a daily basis in every non-profit organization in America.

      Most non-profit agencies are under-resourced and staff are stretched to the breaking point. Active and engaged volunteers are necessary if success is to be achieved. However, there are limits to what volunteers can do for all of the reasons you point out.

      I think this discussion revolves around the following questions:

      * What should non-profits realistically expect from volunteers? How does that get communicated during the recruitment process?

      * What should supporting volunteers look like from a non-profit professional’s perspective? Note taking? Action items memos? Follow-up? Helping git er done?

      * How much autonomy can we expect from our volunteers? And how much does the typical non-profit professional really want to see from volunteer committee chairs?

      I LOVE your comment, Julie. It really gets at the heart of the matter. I think there are two sides to this discussion, which you and our anonymous executive director really do a good job of fleshing out.

      I hope other readers have the time to weigh-in today.

      Here’s to your health!

  2. Dear Sleep Deprived,

    I think there are a lot Execs out there who feel the same way you do. I offer some questions for your consideration:

    How are you and the committee tasked with such things building your Board? Are you honest with prospective members on the time commitment? Are you training them on their role? Are you allowing them to fulfill their responsibilities? Is there an evaluation? Does it include Board process questions? Is it used by the Board Development committee when determining who to renew as board members?

    Sometimes Execs say that they want involved Boards but then put up road blocks every time a board member tries to get involved. Could you be doing that? It is one of many things that disengage Board members. Not understand their role, meetings that are not well run or only fiduciary in nature also disengage members. Disengaged Boards have difficultly fulfilling their governance responsibilities.

    Consider creating a Board Development Plan or if you have one, reminding everyone of the wisdom contained within.

    Every flows from a strong Board of Directors, including happy Execs who live a balanced life and get enough sleep.

    Good luck,


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