If the Board Only Knew

In Evaluations, Introduction by Geoff Burns

Executive Directors are often bombarded by the amount of ancillary items that must be done with no one else to do the work. Board members are often unaware of the volume of random things an ED must deal with on a daily basis. Depending on the organizations size, scope, and activities, the tasks vary greatly. However, there are many common situations that board members just don’t realize need addressed.

Who is going to check the toilet paper?

When is payroll due?

How do the tables need arranged?

Where do volunteers register?

Why is the grass not mowed?

Did someone call the plumber?

Who left food in the microwave?

Why did the license fee increase?

When did you meet with the donor?

Why is there a drone stuck in the tree?

Why do you have three sets of clothes today?

I hope by now you get the point. For many organizations, the ED is the face of the organization. Most don’t have the quality staff needed to handle daily operations. Even with a cleaning service, if the bathroom isn’t clean, people look to whoever is in charge. Typically, the Executive Director.

Why three sets of clothes? Consider a small organization that rents a multipurpose room for their mission work. Every Saturday morning, the ED along with the few paid staff and the volunteers have to set up the stage, the tables, the chairs, the sound equipment, the registration table, the donated clothing, the kitchen, etc. Then, at 1pm everything has to be returned to the way it was at 6am. The ED has to meet with another ED to discuss how they can both maximize their work together. A clean shirt, casual attire, but no jeans. After this afternoon meeting, off to the fundraising banquet. This is a black tie affair.

Although the evening goes well, there are messages to return. A board member received a call about a volunteer who couldn’t find the place in the morning and traveled an hour to get there. Why wasn’t there someone outside flagging down volunteers? Why wasn’t someone in the office taking calls?

Another stakeholder showed up unannounced to ask about the fundraising banquet. It was in the afternoon but the ED was at a meeting. Although the stakeholder should have called, now the stakeholder wonders why the ED isn’t in the office, “doing his job.”

After the banquet, a part time employee sends a text message telling the ED that he quit. (At least he told someone.)

At the banquet, one of the biggest donor prospects is served chicken instead of fish. Although the event is successful, the prospect doesn’t say anything even though she is really upset. Not realizing the amount of work that went into the day (not just the event), the donor wonders if the organization is disorganized and may not be a place to support.

At the next board meeting, the ED is asked about the status with some of the prospects, and for some reason the best prospect has been cold to the organization since the banquet. Staff are quitting unexpectedly. The board thinks that it has something to do with the ED. Maybe he isn’t doing his job. Reality is that there is not enough support and knowledge of what it takes to run the organization.

Board members are responsible for hiring and evaluation of the ED, but most board members really don’t realize what it takes to run the organization. If only the board members understood what a day in the life of the ED was like, perspective could change and effectiveness could increase. No matter the size, every ED has many things that he or she wishes the board members knew.

A great link to board role with the ED