Great leadership is essential for every board, but it takes time to develop a strong, effective board. While you can’t instantly create an exceptional board, there is good news – you can cultivate a board that will significantly benefit your organization. In this article, I will guide you through the essential steps to building a high-impact board.
Many small nonprofits aren’t ready to hire a search firm to find their next executive director. Organizations can do the search themselves but should involve people in the process who have experience in searches and follow best practices. Below is an overview of the process that will result in the best possible hire on a budget. Keep in mind that this method will take a significant amount of the board’s time to carry out.
Why Your Organization Needs an Interim Executive Director
In any nonprofit organization, the executive director plays a key role. The director is the conduit between the board and staff, the public face of the organization, the person who guides the direction of the organization, and much more. When a long-time director leaves, or when the organization has had multiple directors during a short period of time, the board should consider bringing in an interim executive director to strengthen the organization and facilitate the transition. An interim executive director gives the board time for a comprehensive search for the next executive director, since they don’t have to worry about hurrying to get leadership in place.
As your organization grows, you will develop the best ways to carry out every aspect of your work. Sometimes these are nonprofit best practices. Other times they are simply the methods your bookkeeper or funder wants you to use. The more of these procedures you develop, the more important it is to document them.
In addition, as your nonprofit grows, more staff will be taking care of different duties, and no single staff person will know how to do everything. It’s important for everyone to document their work.
This documentation has a wide range of uses. First, when you take a vacation, it makes it much easier for others to cover for you. Imagine how much easier it would be to prepare to leave for a two-week trip if you have all your day-to-day tasks already documented. Second, when you leave your position, it will be much easier to hand things off and know that the organization will be in good hands moving forward. Third, documenting this information will allow you to see where you can delegate tasks. If you can train someone on a task now, why not have them take it on permanently? Finally, having this documentation will help you be more efficient. In creating the manual, you’ll be able to think through your regular tasks and find ways to do your job more efficiently and effectively. You’ll also have all the information you need documented in one place. For example, you’ll have instructions on how to fill out that complicated form you have to fill out only once a year.
You’ve started your nonprofit organization and it has grown with the help of an amazing team of volunteers. But now it is getting too successful. You and your fellow volunteers have full-time jobs and can’t devote the time to the nonprofit that it really needs. What’s the next step? Hiring someone is a big decision and has the possibility of growing the organization significantly. But it also comes with a lot of challenges as the current board and volunteers are used to doing things their way and need to be ready to let someone else take over.
Hiring that first staff person can make a tremendous difference for your organization. It levels up your work in a way that is hard to imagine in advance. Having paid staff means you have someone with the time to devote to the work and to building relationships in the community. It also means someone who has professional experience in nonprofits or who has the time to dedicate to learning about how nonprofits best work. And finally, having paid staff often leads to more stability in your organization as compared to an all-volunteer group. Funders and potential partners will take your organization more seriously if you have paid staff – they know you are going to be around and doing the work long-term.
Below are a few options that were reasonably priced, well-liked, and cloud-based. It was hard to find options as many lists for “grants management software” were for funders. Here are three options that are a step up from the basic spreadsheet that most of us wind up using. The other option is of course to use project management software, especially if you are already using it to manage other projects. Some CRMs also include it as a function. Both of those are beyond the scope of this article.
Hiring a new staff member? Once you’ve put together a great job posting, it’s time to start finding great candidates. In the past, you could expect people would find you but with the incredible competition out there for great workers, that’s not enough anymore.
Especially for high-level positions, remember that your best candidates have jobs already, and may not be actively looking for a new position. How can you find those folks and encourage them to apply?
By Erik Haneberg
A client recently introduced me to this wonderful book on board work for small organizations, which describes most of the organizations I work with. It’s a well-written overview of how boards can work best and how to avoid the pitfalls that many of us fall into. There aren’t a lot of good resources for small organizations out there and this book really fills the gap. It’s also easy to read.
Too often, job postings are simply a copy of the internal job description. They’re long, not too interesting, and aren’t going to cut it in today’s competitive environment. With fewer people applying for positions, you need to stand out from the crowd.
Your job posting is a marketing document. It’s advertising your organization and the great job opportunity you have. A generic laundry list of duties and requirements won’t excite applicants or tell them what the job is really like. Emphasize the job is about making a difference. And keep it to the point. Experts say a job description should be 500-600 words.
Over and over, I see job postings from nonprofit organizations that don’t list salaries. Instead, they say things like, “Salary shall be commensurate with experience.”, or “The company offers a competitive wage and excellent fringe benefits package including health, dental and life insurance, and tuition reimbursement.” It’s nice to know there are benefits, but the salary range is still the primary piece of information.
Employers have budgeted ranges for each posting, so why can’t they disclose the details? Do they hope they can find someone who will work for less than they budgeted? No one would admit to doing that, but it is likely that some organizations do it. Are they embarrassed by how little they are paying? They need to be upfront about it, and then work to change that in the future. Are they just following the lead of corporate job postings? How about doing something different and being transparent about what you are able to pay?