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Three Responsibilites for the Board of Directors

A viable organization is one which has clear direction, comprehensive plans, skilled staff for each essential task, appropriate technology and adequate funding.

Clear direction:
Most non-profits are founded on passion.  Passion is what got them started and what keeps them going.  Passion is absolutely essential.  But passion must be given direction or it amounts to nothing more than raw motivation and unfulfilled desire.  In order for an organization to be viable, it must be able to specifically articulate what it exists to accomplish — its mission.  A statement of mission is the organization's constitution, marching orders, rallying point.  It defines the purpose or niche the organization is trying to fulfill in society and in the God's kingdom.  A mission statement should be navigational, not simply promotional.  Such a statement answers three questions:

What is the desired result of all our effort and resources? (Our vision)
Who must we work with to accomplish this end? (Our target audience)
What must we be exceptional at to accomplish this end? (Our core competencies)

Comprehensive plans:
While direction (mission) articulates the organizational calling, plans delineate how we will fulfill this calling. Many organizations find themselves driven by prior neglect or pressing need rather then purpose. The way to overcome this is to first determine what are the critical progress areas in fulfilling the mission.  In other words, what are the general areas we must continually be making headway in, where neglect will seriously impair the accomplishment of the mission.  Secondly, determine what must be accomplished in the next 90 days in each of those critical progress areas.  Thirdly, determine if the complete list of 90 day goals or desired activities can be achieved by the staff.  If not, bring the list to a reasonable level.  Don't set up the staff for failure.  Finally, have the Executive Director report on the past 90 day goals at each quarterly board meeting with goals prepared for the next 90 day period.  This is one of the ways a board leads — by enabling productivity.

Skilled staff for each essential task:
In determining if the list of 90 day goals can be reasonably accomplished, each task must be assigned to a staff person and, in rare occasions, to board members.  This exercise quickly reveals if the organization has skilled staff for each essential task.  If the organization has multiple staff and yet the majority of tasks continually fall on one person, this may reveal that the others are not properly skilled or not working with clearly defined roles.

The organization's salary and benefit package should be designed to attract good qualified candidates.  Don't be cheap — the ideal candidate for the job will be an individual who will be successful in whatever they decide to invest their life in. The "How little can we get by with?" attitude is a recipe for a long term organizational tragedy.  Setting up a criterion for hire that anyone can meet is a major mistake. Don't make it!

Appropriate technology:
Once the organization has a clearly defined mission, it can then determine what technology will maximize its efforts.  The emphasis here must be to maximize the staff's work and meet constituent needs.  Boards must not resist technological advancement, nor push the organization to use their favorite toys. The board's composite wisdom and perspective is essential here.

Adequate funding:
When an organization has clear focus, decisive plans and a delivery system for its message or service, it is then in a position of "fundability." Funding must be strategically sought after. You may choose, as an organization, how you will raise funds.  Misunderstanding may also result from an inadequate view of scripture.  God always responds to our initiatives of faith.  In most cases, inaction in fund development is a sign of a lack of faith, rather than dependence on God.

As the fiscal and moral owner of the organization, board members should be "major stockholders."  If non-paid insiders who know everything about the organization don't give substantially, why would a casual observer have any confidence to invest?

Board members should not only personally support the organization, but they must also link their friends, acquaintances and co-workers to it as well.  For an organization to grow its donor base, it must continually increase its introduction to more and more people. The organization is crucially dependent on board members for this growth.

Even though the responsibility for fund development must be shared by the board and the executive director, somebody must be focused on this task.  It's one of those essential tasks which must have staff assigned to it.  It may be the executive director or a development specialist.  Regardless of who it is, a two year fund raising plan must be developed and implemented, which includes the acquisition of new donors as well as donor cultivation.  The principle here is that effective and lasting fund development must be intentional and designed, not random and crisis driven.  This is the place where most organizations fall into the crisis trap.  Once an organization has entered into a funding crisis, it usually neglects its mission responsibilities.  When the funding crisis is lessened, it now enters into a mission crisis because that area has been neglected.  As it gets back on track with it's mission efforts, the organization has produced once again a funding crisis from prior neglect.  Crisis fund raising produces short term donors and staff/board burnout.

Sound financial stewardship must include maintaining the donor data base, developing donor profiles and analyzing giving trends.

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