When good intentions get derailed.

I’m on the board of a nonprofit contemplating a new initiative, and it’s been taking us a long time to come to a conclusion. When the chair said, “Thanks, Gina, for nudging us back on track,”  I remembered something that nonprofit administrators sometimes forget.train tracks

Boards of Directors have other lives.

Executive Directors eat, sleep, breathe, LIVE the mission. Most boards don’t.

That’s not to say they don’t care. Not at all. They care very deeply! That’s why they are filled with regret when they realize that they’re not living up to their own expectations of what they hope to accomplish during their terms. The Executive Director may be frustrated with them for not following through, but you can bet that most of them are also frustrated with their own lack of progress.

I once worked with a Board President who was dynamite at raising money – when he made his calls. He was completely committed to making those calls When he was at the board meeting, he had no other mission except to make those calls. But he didn’t make the calls.

Something else came up to distract him, and as committed as he was to the mission, the immediate task took precedence, pushing those fundraising calls down the list.

So what’s the solution?

Well, in the case of the board president, we set appointments for him and the Executive to meet in the same room and make the calls. Once it was on his calendar, it became concrete, not just an item on a to-do list.

We figured out what the problem was, what was keeping him from fulfilling his own self-identified commitments, and figured out how to overcome those obstacles.  With this as an example, the Executive Director learned to view each board member as an individual. Each had his or her own external pressures and obstacles, and each had ways in which they worked well. The Executive Director had to spend some time considering how to help each stay on track.

Time consuming? A bit. But so much more productive than fuming, “can’t they see that this is important?!”

And in the case of the nonprofit that opened this post? We set concrete dates and commitments for our next meeting.

What keeps your board members from accomplishing their work? What else is on their minds? How can these obstacles be overcome? If you’d like to hash this out, let me know!