We all know there is no such thing as a perfect organization, but, unfortunately, some are worse off than others. It might be a bad boss, a lack of infrastructure (or too much of it) or a board that is not doing what is needed from them. This is something that I find too many of my fellow young professionals are currently experiencing and it is likely something that all of us will experience at some point in our careers, whether in nonprofit or not. In order to be successful, we must find positive solutions for these issues.
This week, YNPN Orlando held our Nonprofit MISmangement Panel featuring executive directors, board members and consultants who provided real world advice to overcome the obstacles that our members are facing at their organizations. There were a lot of great questions and some really valuable answers, many of which had common themes, which I have summarized for you below.
The good thing about being young professionals is that most of us are not yet in positions where we are responsible for managing boards. The down side is that sometimes we have to deal with the consequences of boards who are not properly managed without having the authority to impact change. Here are some tips for when you are in that position:
-Provide clear expectations and requirements for prospective board members before any commitments are made.
-Make sure the board understands the difference between governing and operations; simply put, their job is to govern, the staff’s job is to run operations.
-In regards to “Founders Syndrome”, build trust with the board, manage up and remind them of the balance of board and staff. Be careful to criticize the founder; the board and existing staff are loyal to them, not you.
-Never put a vote in front of a board unless you already know the result or do not care.
-Successful fundraising requires commitment and support from the board. Start them with thank you calls to current donors to get them engaged. Then, bring them with you on an ask to show them it is really about building relationships and connecting people to your mission. They will see how casual and natural an ask should be.
Struggling in an unhealthy work environment can be very difficult and it can take a toll. Here are some suggestions to keep your head up:
-Know that it will get better in the future. Power through it and always work hard and stay professional.
-Don’t fight the tide. As millennials, sometimes we have a hard time waiting for change and instead we try to impact it. For an organization set in their ways, this can cause more harm than good. Take a step back, and learn when you should just go with the flow.
-Understand that there are some things you can’t change and some battles you cannot win.
-A difference in ethics does not always mean your organization or your boss is being unethical. Take a moment to see where they are coming from. It might just be a matter of changing your perspective. (However, if there is clear illegal activity taking place, it must be reported. Refer to whistleblower policies, be cautious and know your facts.)
-When your motivation is fleeting and your frustration is building, always go back to the mission. Remind yourself why you are there and the difference you are making.
-Sometimes the best solution is to find the next best opportunity and get yourself out of there.
As young professionals, we are constantly looking towards the next step. If we feel we are being overlooked for promotions or our path of advancement is unclear, the panel suggested we look in the mirror first rather than point the finger at leadership. Here is some advice for making yourself noticed and developing your career within your organization:
-Do your job, and do it well. A hard worker who always goes above and beyond will get noticed.
-Seek out opportunities for growth. Ask your boss about your career path and express interest in professional development.
-Find out if your organization has funds to cover the cost of classes and/or workshops. If not, it is a worthy investment if you can make it fit in your personal budget.
-Differentiate yourself from those around you by having something that they do not. If you are unable to do this in the workplace, consider volunteering to build additional skills.
-If your projects or ideas are being pushed to the side, know the purpose and show value through return on investment. You cannot argue with numbers. Find a way to engage donors and/or volunteers. Make sure this is not taking away from something that is a higher priority in the eyes of your leadership.
-Try not to lean too much on the approval of your boss. Ask yourself what they are like and how you can adjust your style to better work with them. Build credibility and show yourself as a resource. Be humble, but not unconfident.
If you missed the event and would like to see the specific questions and answers, you can go to our Twitter page to see our live tweets from the event.
By Danielle Groves, Professional Development Chair