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FINDING COMFORT IN INCOMPETENCE

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 2, 2009

I think we’re all familiar with the old saying, “Ignorance is bliss,” but I seem to be running into this more frequently in a lot of small nonprofit organizations, such as youth sports, fraternal groups, homeowner associations, etc. I have had more than my fair share of experience with such groups over the years and I am always amazed at how incompetently they are run. People who get on the board of directors for nonprofit groups typically mean well, but most don’t have a clue as to what is necessary to effectively run them.

Running a local nonprofit group is not exactly rocket science, but I’m amazed how many people make it overly complicated (does the expression, “Making mountains out of mole hills,” mean anything to you?). Basically, you have a set of governing docs which you have to follow (which most people on the Board rarely read), you have to keep track of your membership, perform some service for them, and collect money and pay the bills. Hopefully, a rationally prepared budget is somewhere in all of this, but this is becoming as rare as having the organization’s finances independently reviewed on an annual basis. But in a nutshell, that’s all there is to it. Yet, time and again, I see people bumbling their way through nonprofit groups, causing more problems than they solve. So much so, that it is not uncommon for them to hire management companies to come in and run the administrative detail of the organization, for a tidy fee of course.

Nonprofit organizations are typically driven more by ego than common sense. It’s sad when you see someone campaign for President more for the notoriety or power as opposed to performing anything useful. To me, this is just plain bizarre. I guess there are people who need some petty recognition, particularly if they never did anything in their professional lives.

Such organizations tend to be fraught with cronyism, a good ole boy club whereby you have to be anointed to become a member (if you play ball with the powers that be). The last thing they want is an outsider to come in and shake things up. By controlling the rules by which the game is played, the board pretty much has carte blanche to do what they want, and therein lies the problem. The board might be smug and content, but the institution itself begins to deteriorate from neglect. Where there is cronyism, there is incompetence, and where there is incompetence, there is decay. Whenever you see a nonprofit organization fail to adequately report to their constituency on its activities and status, or goes so far as to thwart criticism of the status quo, you see such a scenario.

Typically the only way to overcome a despot or like-minded board is to take over the board in force or by legal maneuvering. Then again, is the incoming board going to be any different than the outgoing board?

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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