Moving your Organization from “WHY” to “WHY NOT?”
By Joseph John
Hopefully, you’ve read my article about the “WHY?” exercise for non profit boards. It’s an important and very healthy question to ask on a periodic basis. The “WHY?” is the backbone of your board’s annual physical. Everything may appear to be fine and running smoothly, but like any good annual physical exam, it will reveal some things going on with the non profit organization that need to be addressed before a serious illness takes place.
Stagnation is something every organization should fear. The same old, same old practices of non profit board members must be challenged to provide responses other than “because.” And with that being said, why not look at the Best Practices of other 501 (c) (3) organizations. Yes, Best Practices. It’s a common exercise in the for-profit world to look outside the organization and see what is working for the competition. Well, let’s not use the word “competition,” but nonprofits should be looking outside at other organizations for periodic reviews.
Think about it. There are literally tens of thousands of non profit organizations in the U.S. Do you know how many are located in your town? Well, why not challenge your organization to step outside and see what some of the others in your town are doing. Envision 15 board members on your board. Those 15 people either sit on other boards or know people who are board members. They can provide the necessary information for your Best Practices Exercise.
Now, roll up your sleeves. You should be able to obtain, essentially, a minimum of 15 sets of the following items for your analysis: vision, mission, values, bylaws, training guides, communications processes (internal and external), FAQ’s, code of conduct, operations manual, fund raising procedures, membership recruiting, and the list goes on.
The next step is to establish several ad hoc committees to review the documents that have been collected. Remember that this does not have to be a laborious process as you examine and prepare to report back. You are looking for: 1) new ideas, 2) a better process or procedure, 3) “ah hah” ideas that aren’t in your current processes and procedures, 4) creative ideas for marketing and communications, 5) short and long term projects for consideration, and lots more.
The final step is the “tell back.” A special board meeting or board retreat must be scheduled specifically for the Best Practices review — don’t shortchange the process!
The committees will report to the board the discoveries that were made and what may possibly work in the non profit organization because it appears to work in another. Remember that the organizations don’t have to be related at all. That’s the beauty of Best Practices. As a matter of fact, the more diverse the organization from yours, the more “ah hahs” you will uncover for possible implementation in your organization.
This exercise will always generate a very spirited “WHY? Well, WHY NOT!” Now, don’t forget that all the great ideas need to be prioritized for possible implementation. The proverbial “don’t bite off more than you can chew” applies with the Best Practices exercise. Some ideas can be implemented immediately, but there will be many practices that will require timelines to ensure success and seamless implementation.
By implementing a Best Practices exercise, your board can avoid potential stagnation and create a group of non profit board members whose mantra will be WHY? Well, WHY NOT!