When serving on a board of an organization....... WHEN THINGS TURN NASTY!

  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Sep 28, 2009 5:25 PM GMT
    Back in the spring, I was asked to serve as a board member of a non profit 501c3 organization. Its a gay men's chorus group. I've mentioned it in passing here on RJ a time or two. It has been around about 8 years and is primarily (not exclusively) composed of gay men. 3 shows are typically performed during the year and the time and effort placed (as it the case with most organizations like this.. is extensive). This group has done a great job in the past and as received much publicity.

    I've been a supporter of the organization, mostly from advertising and donations.
    A friend of mine had encouraged me to serve on the board and is now serving as its president. While I don't sing much, I was encouraged as an outside "expert" had encouraged the board 2 years ago to bring in outside, professional people to broaden viewpoints as well as talents. Prior to that, it had been a very narrowly focused group. So my friend encouraged me.
    I thought I'd enjoy it and gain a better understanding about this kind of organization as well as my interest in music. I've had a considerable background serving in these capacities, many times in leadership roles. I like doing it. Prior to serving, I had received a couple of comments about this turmoil this board has had in the past as well as the "politics" that seem to exist.
    My approach is much the same in person as here on RJ... I tend to ask alot of questions, very flexible and reasoned in responses. I think I can handle it.

    So I am elected and begin serving. What I realized immediately is that this organization is in financial jeopardy. My friend even put a $1,500 bill on his personal credit card (for a fundraising event of all things). They call it a "working board", but as a board member, each has personal financial responsibility should the organization default oweing financial liabilities. We had a large
    (for all practical purposes.. garage sale) that I chaired.... and have donated to
    an art sale as well as attend most board meetings. The "politics" of the organization follows that you need to be at all fundraising events, all meetings.. all everything, actually. Because of financial needs, the group had a series of 7 or 8 "bar crawls" at local gays bars during the month of August and was successful. Because of my own business requirements (and the fact I visited a rescue shelter in KC about a beagle).. I didn't attend those events. So now
    I'm in hot water, so to speak.

    Prior to the "just completed" show, the organization reviewed a "wish list" of expenses which were pretty high, including the appearance of a guest conductor with national recognition. I asked a number of questions, including why the conductor needed to stay in one of the best hotels in Wichita, rather than at one more reasonable. Other board members ask questions and expenses were cut back a bit. The show was a success. I certainly became aware that "asking questions" may be deemed as a negative. I guess a "robot" might be the perfect board member.

    But I've felt a little resentful. As a board member, I never voted on any budget or the original expenses.... so last week arrived and another board member questioned a rather significant expenditure for the new season.... and I was quick to chime in. The result was an absolute battle royale. Here we are about to start a new season and we don't even have a budget! I thought it was outragious. While I asked more questions, my friend (the president) proceeded to say some very personal, nasty remarks (trust me, I made my views known about the whole spending process). My comment... the idea we haven't even voted on a budget... or talked expenses, in light of our current economic plight was "beyond ridiculous".

    I thought about an exit, but I've never quit a board. After our angry exchange, I apologized to my friend.... but I really wonder about how much this organization can really change. I've shared this experience (in detail) to a couple of RJ members who have just indicated "an exit probably would be the best course of action", but I'm not sure. I'd rather stick it out awhile and see what happens.
    After objections, the president (in a surly manner) called for a budget meeting.
    "I guess these people want a budget", he said.

    Comments?



  • Timbales

    Posts: 13993

    Sep 28, 2009 5:49 PM GMT
    If you have a personal financial responsibility, then I think you only have two courses to choose from.

    1) Resign

    2) Prepare an outline for the budget meeting and lead the way towards a fiscally responsible budget and board.

    I was on committees when I sang with the Syracuse GLBT chorus. Not something I'd do again.
  • HndsmKansan

    Posts: 16311

    Sep 28, 2009 5:52 PM GMT
    Timberoo said

    I was on committees when I sang with the Syracuse GLBT chorus. Not something I'd do again.


    Why is that Tim???
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 28, 2009 5:55 PM GMT
    I had a very similar experience recently. After three months of putting in a lot of effort, floating sensible ideas, and sharing my limited experience with a group that had none I just had enough. I couldn't change the group in three months and they had another three months left to achieve their goal.

    So, I took a different support role in the last two weeks and put in my best effort. When the whole thing failed miserably it was kind of nice being there as a reminder that things could have gone very differently.

    In short, I have no good advice for you, but I can sympathize.
  • Timbales

    Posts: 13993

    Sep 28, 2009 6:05 PM GMT
    HndsmKansan said
    Timberoo said

    I was on committees when I sang with the Syracuse GLBT chorus. Not something I'd do again.


    Why is that Tim???


    I enjoyed singing to a degree, but the chorus was so out of touch it wasn't even funny. Their philosophy was to sing music they wanted to and to not really be concerned about if the audience liked it or not. The lesbians were dead set against any kind of actual Christmas music in the holiday concert that it was a fight to get one traditional song on the program. The director at the time had his own agenda and didn't care what the music selection committee brought in to sing. Most of the men couldn't be bothered to do anything other than bitch about things they didn't like and the women never wanted to move forward with anything unless there everyone was in total agreement.

    It's how I came up with my name for a group of gay women - a consensus of lesbians
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    Sep 28, 2009 6:08 PM GMT
    I served as a Director of a County Housing and Redevelopment Authority which placed me as Secretary for its board of Directors. I've also been on several other agency boards and a school board. Not only is the board in some cases responsible for their decisions which can affect their financial liability but a board can also be responsible for what they don't keep track of that the actual agency themselves do, if the board doesn't insure proper safeguards from possible fraud and abuse of laws inside the organization then they put themselves in jeapardy. Not only would I insist on a yearly budget but on an entire close look at every aspect of the group to ensure there is nothing being left undone that could come back to bite you a board member. If this effort is met with resistence from the management, then get off the board because it may be a warning sign that there are things to hide. Good Luck
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    Sep 28, 2009 6:35 PM GMT
    There is something about volunteer organizations and being part of "the board" that brings out the worst in some people. There is no boss per se, there's no salary to loose and often people join these groups for different reasons. So everybody wants to feel important.....big egos....frequently small minds and no aptitude....lots of people have opinions....lots of people have no opinion but will sit back and quietly torpedo progress....and lots of people will side with whoever seems to be winning at the moment.

    And if you are "the president", or someone who passionately cares about the cause or function of the organization you might just as well set yourself up for target practise. A leader sees the whole picture, rather than the little personal focus that most people whine about.

    Sorry for the rant. But I had a long expereince with a volunteer organization that was responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of numerous comunity gardens here in NYC. Based on my organization's efforts and advice, the city government would make policy.

    Never again will I put myself in that position.



  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Sep 28, 2009 11:42 PM GMT
    At the next meeting be prepared and have a detailed list of debts and credits frm the past yr. Possibly show where money could have been saved and what expenses were outlandish. Provide a budget for the coming yr and if the board is not receptive to this, how much more can you offer? at that time if you feel like you've exhausted any and all reasonable arguments and if it ever becomes personal again, your probably best suited elsewhere.

    GOOD LUCK!