by Jane Stein
Several weeks ago I was facilitating a board of Directors’ retreat for one of my nonprofit clients. I had invited the Chairman of the Board of a larger client organization, a gentleman who had retired from a Fortune 500 company as a very senior vice president, to do a lunch talk about what he believed it took to build the very best nonprofit board. In his remarks, he spoke about how when he was working in the for profit world, life was simple…all goals were clearly defined, all decisions were made with his head. But when he entered the universe of the nonprofits, he found very quickly that all decisions had to be a balance between his head and his heart.
How we handle this balance is different for all of us….a hungry child needs our food banks to have shelves and shelves and shelves filled with food….but for our food banks to have shelves and shelves and shelves filled with food, we need to do a whole lot of food raising and fund raising. We need our homeless families to have a safe place to shelter….but keeping those shelters safe and actually operating at all, means we need a whole lot of real estate and a whole of case management … and that means we need a whole lot of money. The children, individuals and families who come to our Jewish Family Services need a whole lot of program and clinical services….and guess what…that means a whole lot of money….and our JCC’s…oy! Do they need a WHOLE LOT OF MONEY!
When we sit on the boards or are a part of the staff of a nonprofit we are a part of a huge continuum of services. We work to lift those in our community up through Maslow’s Hierarchy (you know the one: food, safety and shelter first, and then if you are lucky, one day you can rise up through education and meaningful employment to “self actualization” whatever the heck that is!) If we do not find the balance between our heads and our hearts, we will find that wonderful 501(C)3 that we love so dearly has to close its doors.
Finding this balance is not an option. It is one of the two responsibilities of Board membership (governance and support). Being the best board member possible means being fiscally responsible no matter how compelling the face of that one more child you could be serving may be. If you have no organization because you had to close the doors, what good are you to anyone? And being professional staff at any of our nonprofit organizations does not mean working for slave wages, but it does mean working as efficiently and effectively as possible so that every dollar is wisely spent.
I encourage every organization with which I work to understand the mantra “No money, no mission!” (More on this subject in future blogs!) And I encourage them all to understand that we choose to work with nonprofit organizations because all of that heart stuff is built right in.
I always believe that our mission when we work with nonprofits, is to help to repair some part of our tired, worn out world. And of course all of us, representing so many of the very best of the nonprofits in our Jewish world, understand this mission from the very core of our being….we work (for financial remuneration or for no financial remuneration at all) because we so deeply believe that we were placed on this earth to make a contribution to this repair, and to do it under the Kingship of G-d.
So……does this mean we lead more with our hearts than with our heads? You bet!