Thursday, August 11, 2005

Non Profits For Sure

As is usual for me I find myself looking beyond a local headline. Today it is the departure of Rhys Johnson from the Human Rights Education Institute. Has anyone noticed how many executive directors in this area have parted company with their organizations because of clashes with their boards? Post Falls Chamber and Rathdrum Chamber are a couple that come immediately to mind. Look at the trouble the Humane Society has had.

Before moving here I made my living fund raising for non profits or if working for a profit entity, partnering with non profits for mutual benefit. I know a bit about non profit structure, board structure and fund raising structure. I venture to say a huge number of local non profits don't come close to doing what the guidelines specify in order to succeed.

Frankly I think the 501(c)3 non profit status is given too freely and ill used by many organizations. Look at the Red Hot Mamas for example. Here is an organization one has to audition to join; other then when they want to travel to bowl parades, inaugurations, London and whatever you rarely see them out and about here. If they are they don't get the press they should. I'm sorry but with all the need in this area funding trips for these good ole gals because they put Coeur d'Alene in such good light is ludicrous.

In my initial attempts to get involved in the community when I first arrived I was rebuffed so many times I've given up. I know I have a "strong" personality and that didn't sit well with many. I also bring with me nearly 40 years of experience in my field. Being told I could get on one gentleman's good side if I'd buy him a drink was laughable if it wasn't so typical of the area - sexist to say the least. I should have taken him up on it just to see the expression on his face when this near retirement age gal arrived to "pick him up".

Back to the point however. The boards. Smaller organizations have Mom and Dad and Uncle Charlie. Wrong. Larger, more known organizations often have boards made up of people who are dedicated to their own agenda and/or want to add to their resume. They bring bring nothing more to the plate than turmoil. Wrong again.

What doesn't seem to be realized is that the make up of the board, what each member brings financially (yes, financially) and influence wise has a huge bearing on the ability to qualify for grants and gifts from foundations. Mom, Dad and Uncle Charlie don't cut it. Neither does John Doe who is on every board that will have him.

Same premise with fund raising. Here they fret if they don't get a grant. See above. Events are great for visibility but they are labor intensive for the return. Little attention is paid identifying sources, delegating the work force to concentrate on each and putting together a comprehensive plan. Use of volunteers? Give them something meaningful to do. Rewards for volunteers??? Want a shining example of how that is done? Look at Houston Grand Opera. Any group in town could follow the example.

So where is all this wonderful information? Mr. Rhys Johnson has it, I have it and so does any book on how to run a successful non profit. Huddling behind the gates of high tone neighborhoods doesn't inspire the public to get involved. Protecting little hierarchies doesn't persuade the Rhys Johnsons of the area to stick around. The community's loss. Here is a man with more worldly experience than most of us will have in a life time. I can't vouch for him or his organization but the trend is the problem and it is there. But it would appear the community would rather be rid of his kind then get up to speed.

Scary? You bet. But times they are a changin' and if you want to be anything other than "bush" (pardon the pun) get over your complexes or selfishness and open up. You might find the outsiders aren't all that bad.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You don't have the whole story regarding Mr. Johnson. Be careful who you endorse, it will come back to bite you!