Dear board volunteers . . . Please stop selling us short to your friends.

mardi gras mask14DonorDreams 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. Up to that fun-filled day, I will publish real anonymous letters every day from real non-profit people right here at DonorDreams blog.

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

Today’s anonymous letter is a little different from Wednesday and Thursday’s submissions. This contributor decided to take on the persona of the iconic advice columnist Dear Abby.

Here is today’s letter:

Dear Board Member,

First, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for your good intentions. I know that your good will toward our organization and your personal investment is sparked by a desire to make a difference. I appreciate that you have invested energy, time, and resources generously.

But why on earth, after making that kind of investment in us, do you constantly sell us short to your friends and colleagues?

If you truly value our mission, why do you assume others won’t? If you really believe in our work, why do you approach those in your sphere apologetically, with a hat-in-hand posture that telegraphs an attitude of begging? Don’t you realize that the message you are sending is that you, as a board member, don’t believe the organization is worthy of their investment? That you expect to receive only whatever crumbs may be leftover after all their “important” investments have been made? If you as a friend, colleague, and person they respect and as a member of the governing body of our organization, communicate that expectation, how could they reach any other conclusion?

If you truly believe in the value of our work, why do I constantly have to fight to keep you from lowering our standards?

You recruit new board members, telling them, don’t worry, we’ll take whatever you have to give. Any amount of time, any amount of dollars. If you are too busy to attend meetings, that’s OK. We’ll send you the minutes. You tell them, if you’re uncomfortable asking your colleagues to support us, we understand, but just let us put your name on our letterhead. How can you imagine this leads anyone to believe there is value in what we do?

When the budget is tight, instead of calling on community leaders to invest in this life-changing work, you suggest we shift to fewer full-time and more part-time staff, who will work for minimum wage. Really? Do you really believe the work they do is no more significant than flipping burgers or dishing up soft-serve ice cream? When we were hiring a new Executive Director, you wanted to advertise for the lowest possible salary to be “fiscally responsible”. Really?? Is our product (keeping in mind that our services saves lives) truly worth less than a car or a computer or a landscaping job or anything else that is produced for a profit? Why would we not want to hire the best possible leader for this critical work? 

If you believe our work has value, please, adopt a posture of worthiness in everything you do on behalf of this organization. If you are struggling with that, let me suggest you do two things:

  1. Visit our sites during service hours. If you get to know some of the kids whose lives we are changing, you’ll start to understand that they are worthy of this chance.
  2. Get familiar with our outcomes. They are in the board reports we review each month and they are proof of the results this work is yielding

This should convince you that we are worthy! If it does, please stop apologizing for asking your friends to support us.

If you do these things and still don’t believe we are worthy, please do the right thing and invest your effort somewhere else.

Stop demeaning the work of the rest of us on the board and of our professional staff.

Your Board Chair

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 for more information on how to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival, please click here.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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