A Guest Post by Tony Poderis
The best, and the most needed non-profit organizations begin with a founder’s vision to do something good for society — often to serve a need no one else is serving, and unfortunately, sometimes addressing needs some others would rather not even know exist. So, as such a founder, good for you with your mission and vision. You are a true non-profit entrepreneur, though you know there is no profit motive involved.
However, wanting to achieve what you want to achieve to your own founder’s vision, could, sooner than later, change and be counter to your original founding views.
That’s because, when you form “your” non-profit organization, it then become a public charity. You cannot personally control it. Even if you name yourself, or are named, by your Board of Trustees as the Executive Director on one day, at the board’s discretion the next day, with cause as they see it, they can fire you. Or, only serving as a board member, you can as well be replaced by board decree.
That’s reality, and something you should know right from the start.
All founders of non-profits should know that no individual or group of individuals can “own” a non-profit. Typically, a founder of a non-profit organization has a difficult choice to make: should I be an employee or a board member? While it’s legally *possible* to be both, there are ethical and legal restrictions imposed on such a dual status.
In addition, organizations having the founder’s tight and unyielding grip often find it more difficult to attract new Board members, other volunteers, donors and grant support than do organizations with better-defined, more diverse, governance structures — i.e., other volunteers involved in making policy and carrying out the mission, and even changing the mission course as needed.
Beware of the “Founder’s Syndrome”
Founders who bring new ideas to the “table” develop a mission statement for their new organizations as the embodiment of their own vision and ideas, usually based upon a personal experience or passion.
Quite often though, the organization’s clients/users, donors, volunteers and staff play largely a passive role, responding largely to the founder’s passion.
A Remedy For “Founder’s Syndrome”
To succeed in today’s nonprofit “marketplace,” a new organization must be able to attract board members, other volunteers, audience, donors, and staff. And it does that through a shared vision and imparting “ownership” of the organization to others. A shared vision that speaks to and appeals to a diverse constituency is critically important to success of any nonprofit organization.
Staying On The Mission Statement “Course”
Your mission statement is working at its best when it clearly and firmly guides the board in making effective decisions about the organization’s future. It motivates and challenges the staff to meet well-defined and shared goals. And it is the beacon of hope for the people the organization directly serves. It is the responsibility of leadership to see to it that the organization always operates within the confines of its mission.
With that necessary team effort, that mission course might or might not be the one as originally set by the founder.
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