For several years now, we have been talking about the “revolving door” in fundraising, about nonprofit organizations not being able to keep their development directors. The recent study, jointly sponsored by The Chronicle of Philanthropy and the Association of Fundraising Professionals, shows that “toxic culture” is one of the top reasons that fundraising professionals leave their nonprofit workplaces.
Legally, the board of directors of a nonprofit organization is responsible for the organization. If boards want to know what they can do to retain good fundraising professionals, they should work to improve the organization’s culture and the best way to do that is to improve the organization’s leadership. Says Beth Kanter, author of The Happy, Healthy Nonprofit, one of the most effective ways that organizations can improve their cultures is by improving their leadership.
Far too many board members serve in totally passive ways, doing only that work of the board that a nonprofit CEO leads them to do and knowing about the nonprofit organization only what the nonprofit CEO tells them. This is incredibly unhealthy and potentially dangerous. Boards that make decisions about nonprofit leadership and direction with only the input of their CEO are at-risk of making very poor decisions. All of us—even the best of CEOs—have blinders, limited understanding, and incomplete pictures. And then there are the CEOs who are unethical and intentionally distort the “facts” that are reported to boards.
One of the best things boards can do is actively solicit input from others (in addition to the CEO) serving the organization. Because other staff may be constrained from truth-telling in front of the CEOs to whom they report, an anonymous 360-degree evaluation and feedback process is the one way they can guarantee they get good information from those on the ground (opportunities for confidential or anonymous whistle-blowing is another).
BoardSource, an excellence source of training and guidance about nonprofit leadership, warns that boards of directors that are negligent about executive evaluation are legally exposed. It is the responsibility of the board of directors to hold the executive director of a nonprofit organization accountable. Accordingly, BoardSource recommends a formal, written review every year. And, if boards don’t know how to conduct one, BoardSource has a tool to help them conduct one.
To help boards of directors remember to annually review their leadership and to remind them of the other things they are charged with throughout the year, I’ve put together a sample board annual calendar. It’s yours free from our resources page. It’s editable so you can customize it for your board’s particular annual rhythm.
There are so many benefits of a 360-degree review process for a leader. Board members need to help their CEOs grow and gathering feedback from employees, volunteers, and funders(!) can help a board have a good picture of where the growing edges of their leader are.
As an added benefit, a 360-degree review can help uncover cultural issues about which board members may be totally unaware, the kinds of issues that run good staff—fundraisers as well as other professionals—out the door. A regular, 360-degree review process of nonprofit CEOs just might help end the revolving door crisis in fundraising.
Image Source: Bigstock.com/Tang90246 – Used with permission.
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