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Dear executive director: Don’t do it all yourself!
publication date: Jul 8, 2014
author/source: Bill Kennedy
The executive director: someone who does whatever is necessary to deliver the organization’s programs, but doesn’t do it all themselves. When I saw an executive director cutting up raw vegetables an hour before the organization’s Annual General Meeting, I knew I had to write this article.
You attend the official meetings with the board, the executive, the sub-committees, task groups and retreats. You chair the management meetings. You give tours to visitors and explanations to prospective donors. You sign the cheques, the expense claims, the contracts, the tax forms, the funders’ reports, and each and every donation receipt. You handle vacation requests, public complaints, personality conflicts and the questions that nobody else knows how to deal with. You are sensitive to issues of diversity, pay equity, environmental impact, hazardous materials, donor fatigue, and cash flow. You work early mornings, late nights and weekends. Occasionally you take time off to be with your family, but even when you are on vacation, you leave instructions about how you can be reached.
This problem is widespread. You are not alone, so take a deep breath and realize that you can’t do it all. It’s time to step out of the picture and re-strategize.
I attended a meeting of the investment committee with the CFO of a national charity. There were a dozen different experienced investment professionals engaged in a deep discussion about interest rates. I asked the CFO how he was able to get so many talented people around the table, people who work in direct competition with each other.
He responded that he thought that the investment committee was like a neutral ground where investment professionals could sound each other out on developments in the market. Everyone benefits: the charity gets good advice and the individuals get a stimulating experience with their peers.
You need volunteers!
As a professional accountant with a lot of charity experience, I frequently get asked to join charity boards, always as treasurer. Knowing the time commitment involved, I tend to politely decline. It’s the same story all over: the people you’d really want tend to be busy already. Here are some tips for attracting time-poor people.
Your volunteers’ objectives
Obviously, the people who sign on with your organization are people who support the organization’s mission, but let’s go a step or two beyond that and think about how you can make the experience even more attractive.
Finally, after reading this list, if recruiting the people you need isn’t something you see yourself doing, then maybe the one item on your to-do list is to recruit someone who can.
Do you have some recruiting tips to add or some stories to share? Please let me know.
Bill Kennedy is a Toronto based Chartered Accountant with Energized Accounting, focusing on financial and reporting systems in the charitable sector. He blogs at www.EnergizedAccounting.ca/blog/. Find out more at www.EnergizedAccounting.ca; follow Bill @Energized
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