Dear Joan: HELP! Our Entire Staff Quit!

“Dear Joan” is an ongoing series where Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.

staff quit

As part of my upcoming free workshop called How to Build a Thriving Nonprofit, I created a Facebook group where I’ll be running Q&As during the workshop. More than 3,000 people have already joined!

The quality of conversation in the group has been terrific. Members have already helped each other:

  • Find 501c3-friendly financial institutions and great VOIP phone systems
  • Improve each other’s elevator speeches
  • Find resources to help with strategic planning
  • Prepare for a new ED position
  • Overcome burnout
  • Create systems to stay on top of grant deadlines, and so much more

And that’s just some of what’s happened in the last 24 hours.

(If you’d like to participate in the free workshop and Facebook group, click here.)

So for “Dear Joan” this week, I want to answer some of the messier questions posed in the group.

Let’s get to it…Continue Reading

Dear Joan: The Board Fired the CEO and Took Over!

“Dear Joan” is an ongoing series where Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.

board fired ceo

First off, thank you to the many folks who write with ideas for blog posts and who reach out with questions. The volume is quite overwhelming and I’m thinking a lot about how I can reach more people to offer the advice (and shot in the arm) they need. I’ll have more to say on that soon….

Today, I picked two different – but related – questions.

The first comes from the member of a senior staff who is concerned about the role of the board after a CEO is fired and the second comes from a CEO working through what appears to be dysfunctional relationship with her board chair.

What’s the common thread? It’s the relationship between the board and the staff. What it can look like if roles are not clear, if there is a lack of trust, if the board is not clear on its role, if the CEO does not lead.

One of the most important theories I have – as an author and a consultant – is that a thriving nonprofit should be like a twin-engine jet. Each engine – board and staff – must operate well independently and together.

Far too often, that is not the case. See Exhibits A and B below. Because I like to illustrate what the Board–CEO relationship does look like when it’s humming, I offer Exhibit C – a “tip o’ the hat” to a beloved board chair.

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OUR CEO WAS FIRED AND THE BOARD HAS TAKEN OVER

Dear Joan: Our Board of Directors has recently fired the CEO of our non-profit organization. There were legitimate reasons, and I do not fault them for doing so. However, there are now 2 Board members who have taken power and are overriding our COO and CFO (who is also the Interim CEO) in all decisions. The Board has secret meetings and is not transparent at all. We are all worried that the organization is not going to make it under this takeover. Can a board take over like this leaving the staff powerless?

– One of the Powerless

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My Book is Finally Done! Now What?

I can’t believe it! It’s finished! I just sent the final edits off to my publisher and it’s finally done!!!

I’m popping the champagne – and I want to share with you some lessons I learned that are useful for any nonprofit leader with too much to do.

(And I also want to ask your advice about putting together a special launch team to work with me on getting the word out – watch the video to learn more!)

So what do you think… do you want to be on my book launch team? If you have thoughts about it, or want to apply, please go to this page and let me know!

And also, you can download a free chapter of the book right now and also sign up for free bonuses if you pre-order. All the information is available at www.NonprofitsAreMessy.com.

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Dear Joan: Can I Ask For Donations at a Ticketed Event?

Once or twice a quarter, Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.

dear joan fire donor need a raise

For Jeopardy fans, consider these question in the Potpourri category. One of them touches a nerve for me (how to hold a consultant accountable) and another seems mundane, but trust me it isn’t (board meeting minutes). Lastly, from the hundreds of emails I am now getting, I picked one I hear a lot – can I ask for money at a ticketed event?

Never hesitate to shoot me an email with questions you have or blog post ideas. I hear often from readers that my posts really connect with them — there’s a simple reason why — ideas from my readers drive most of my content.

Hope you find this helpful and as always, thanks for what you do

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WE HIRED A CONSULTANT AND I’M NOT IMPRESSED

Dear Joan: We recently fired our development director and because we have been taking the necessary time to find the right candidate, we hired a fundraising consultant. I’m not impressed and think we may be wasting our money. She hasn’t brought in any new money and it’s been 4 months. A board member says give it time.

– Impatient to Raise Money

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Dear Joan: My Workload Just Doubled and I Need a Raise

Once or twice a quarter, Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.

dear joan fire donor need a raise

In my experience, managing staff is especially tricky in the nonprofit space.

Why? I have a few theories.

First, bosses can be timid about offering direct feedback. That can really cause problems. Some supervisors I know feel guilty about how hard the staff works. Others are just conflict averse.

Second, many supervisors at nonprofits have never been supervisors before. They don’t have the professional development of the tools necessary to manage with confidence.

In this month’s “Dear Joan,” I answer some questions from supervisors that are in the second camp.

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I NEED A RAISE

Dear Joan: A colleague of mine is about to leave and I have been asked to take on additional responsibilities. I think it’s going to be a while before they find the right person and I think they may move even more slowly because they are sure I will be able to do an excellent job. But the E.D. seems to be forgetting that I already have an overwhelming job.

I can’t say no – the work must get done – but can I ask for more money?

– The Job I Have Is More Than Plenty

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Dear Joan: Do We Need a Deputy Director?

Each month, Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.

dear joan fire donor

Is there a common thread amongst these three dilemnas? I see one. It’s about getting out in front – about being proactive rather than reactive. And yes that takes time to plan, to be thoughtful, to partner with your board to really think through the tough stuff.

Maybe you think you don’t have time to design a fabulous board meeting, build a crisis management plan, or build the ideal job description for a Deputy Director.

But trust me. Getting out in front saves time. Always.

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SHOULD WE HIRE A DEPUTY DIRECTOR?

Dear Joan: Our Executive Director is a gifted visionary and great with people but… her financial acumen is poor, she feels like she needs to do everything herself, and she is not focusing on the internal work of the organization. Is it time for a Deputy Director? Wouldn’t that solve the problem and compensate for her liabilities?

– She is Great But…Continue Reading

Dear Joan: Is There a Smart Way to Fire Someone?

Each month, Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.

fire staff

This month, Joan tackles questions from three different Executive Directors. One wants to know how to deal with insubordination. Another is looking for the smartest way to fire staff. The third is dealing with constant staff lateness.

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Before we get to this week’s questions, let me ask you one.

Are you a leader? Or a manager?

They’re not the same at all. Very different skills and attributes.

And yet, Executive Directors have to be both leader and manager. This can lead to conflict.

Many EDs like to try to create a sense of “family” in their organizations. Dangerous. And even family members need to be held accountable…

So if you have an organization like that, what do you do when a staff member (or 5) isn’t doing his job?

Here are my responses to three different Executive Directors who have asked me this very question…

HANDLING AN INSUBORDINATE STAFF

Dear Joan:

So I am a brand new ED at a small nonprofit. 5 full time staff. I’m grateful that it is big enough to have at least five! It’s my first ED job and I can’t believe they hired me! It’s a dream job for me.

So I call my first staff meeting and I’m super excited to bring the team together and only 2 people show up. The others don’t even tell me they are not coming.

I’m furious and cannot believe how insubordinate they are. I’m having a hard time hiding my frustration. When I asked them why they didn’t show up (and I’m sure I wasn’t nice about it), they said they had important deadlines to meet.

– Can You Put a Staff Member in “Time Out?”Continue Reading

Dear Joan: How Do I Handle a Racist Board Member?

Each month, Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.

racist board member

This month, Joan tackles questions from a board member with a racist vice chair, an ED who wants to know how to diversify revenue streams, and another board member who wonders if it’s time to hire a full-time Executive Director.

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MY RACIST BOARD VICE CHAIR

Dear Joan: 

My board secretary is very strong. She volunteers more than most, is a strong advocate for our mission, and is seen as a leader in her community.

Unfortunately, I’ve recently discovered that she also is very vocal about her dislike for African Americans. I was horrified to come across several posts on her Facebook and Twitter accounts that were very ugly and defamatory.

To compound the problem, the community we live in (and work in) has a sizable African American community.

No one has complained to me but I just can’t let it go. I know I can’t simply ask a board member to step down because we have different views (even though her views upset me a great deal). That said, I fear a larger impact on the reputation of my organization.

Then there is one other thing. She is one of my highest performing board members. I know it’s selfish but I really need her.

And no we do not have a social media policy. Is this a board chair issue? Will a social media policy do the trick? Do we have to ask her to step down?

Board Member and Her Not So Private OpinionsContinue Reading

Dear Joan: How Do I Fire a Donor?

Each month, Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.

dear joan fire donor

This month, Joan tackles questions from new ED’s whose predecessors stick around, mission alignment, and the donor who may be more trouble than s/he is worth.

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CAN I FIRE A DONOR?

Dear Joan: Here’s a question for you. Can we break up with a donor? Sometimes donors are high maintenance and cause more trouble than their money or engagement is worth.

– I’ve Had It.Continue Reading

Dear Joan: There’s Too Much On My Plate

Advice For New Executive DirectorsEach month, Joan responds to readers who send emails asking for nonprofit advice, practical solutions, or just general therapy (Joan tries not to make direct comments on a reader’s psychological state — that’s called practicing without a license.) You can send your questions to Joan by clicking here.

This week, Joan gives advice and covers MYOB essentials for new Executive Directors (and those who want to become Executive Directors.)

Dear Joan: I am a new Executive Director of an organization less than a year old. My struggle now: finding time to oversee operations and successfully fundraise. I don’t have a lot of fundraising experience; I am willing but nervous. Oh, and I have no idea how to find the time. And of course we really need the money.

– Juggling Poorly

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