Questions From My Readers

You hate your new ED? Oy.  Let's tease that out.

Slow down. Trying to capture all the things you are struggling with.  May need a bigger piece of  paper.

I really do love writing my blog. Of course, I never feel like I have enough time but that’s a tune we all know well.

What I like the most is that I can reach so many people and that readers let me know that I’ve helped them.

Also, my readers are often the best sources of content! They pose great questions.

So welcome to my new feature:

What Are YOU Struggling With?”

Each month, I will dedicate a post to offering some brief advice to readers who have sent questions my way. I generally find that if one person has a question, it’s shared by many. I hope that it will prompt other readers to submit questions of their own.

Today’s questions come from Executive Directors. Next month I’ll tackle questions from board members.

Q: SHOULD A DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR REPORT TO THE E.D. AS PART OF THE LEADERSHIP TEAM?

Every nonprofit should have a leadership team, which should be comprised of the ED’s direct reports (should you be fortunate enough to have any direct reports!) EDs need to rely on a core team for the very best decision-making.  People join nonprofit work to have a voice. Give them the opportunity.

Second, the Development Director should ALWAYS report to the ED and should always be on the Leadership Team. Often, an ED will spend 60% of her time (or more) fundraising, so an ongoing partnership with the Devo Director is absolutely vital. Have you ever seen a corporate structure where the head of sales didn’t report to the CEO?

Q: I LOVED THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR WHO HIRED ME. WE HAVE A NEW ONE. I HATE HER. WHAT DO I DO?

I may expand this to a full-blown post in the future, but in the meantime, let me put a few things out there. Before you jump ship, ask yourself a few key questions:

1)   Are you giving the new one a fair shot? The new ED deserves one. And attrition of key staff can destabilize an organization, making it even tougher for the new ED to succeed.

2)   Keep your eye on the mission. Are YOU still adding value? Is the new ED diminishing your ability and/or credibility? (If yes, that’s a red flag!) Can you continue to do good work for the organization you care about? Most importantly, can you (perhaps with coaching) develop strategies to manage up so that your ED can adjust her management/leadership style? Can you become a key advisor in some way that will allow you to be a truth-teller.

3)   If it all seems like a lost cause, remember that your board hired her. And so going to the board can be tricky business indeed. If you choose that route, make sure the messenger is a staff member that is held in the highest regard by the board — the staff member the board sees as “indispensable.” Choose your messenger and the message carefully.

You can also anonymously send them a link to this page on my website, which focuses on how to become an amazing Executive Director. ;-)

Q:  I ASKED THE BOARD’S HELP IN MAKING A $20K ASK AND THE NEXT DAY A BOARD MEMBER QUIT AND SHAMED ME FOR NOT MAKING THE ASK MYSELF. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

The first answer is an easy one. Celebrate the exit of the aforementioned board member.

Now the tough stuff.

1)   Take a good hard look at your board members. Use my board assessment tool to look at your board through the lens of leadership, fundraising ability, level of engagement. Maybe this board member was an outlier but maybe you have a bigger problem.

2)   Has your board ever had an external expert come in and talk about what a board does and what it doesn’t? Has your board ever had a fundraising training? This is especially important if you have a disproportionate number of board members with no prior board experience.

If this is something that interests you, let me know.

3)   It’s time to set aside a good chunk of time to new board member recruitment. If this board member is not an outlier, you have deep troubles. You must recruit one or two board members who drink the organizational kool-aid and whose love for the mission trumps their fear of fundraising. You need allies who can “tip” the board into a new mindset  This piece may be of some help:

How to Create A Great Board of Directors.

This is very hard work. But a strong board with a good solid handful of members who are at least willing to learn about the art and science of fundraising is mission critical for you. Get involved in board recruitment, serve up prospects and get these folks to help you to transform your board. You can’t do it all yourself. This strategy is your only hope.

These are just three of the dozens of questions I get monthly. Some of the questions turn into full-blown posts; others I will try to get to as I can.

Next month, I’ll turn my “Dear Abby” skills to questions from board members.

And don’t hesitate to add your question to the queue.