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Posts Tagged ‘nonprofit’

A HOME OWNERS ASSOCIATION TONG WAR

Posted by Tim Bryce on June 14, 2019

BRYCE ON NONPROFITS

– and a lesson for others.

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

My Home Owners Association (HOA) is currently involved in a dispute between the Board of Directors and the residents. It has become so nasty, it is starting to resemble a Tong War. Interestingly, this is not the first time this has happened. About 25 years ago the association built a substantial brick wall at the front of the neighborhood, but the Board refused to account for the money spent. This turned into an ugly donnybrook and caused a changeover in the board, and feelings were hurt. This is what caused me to get involved and help cleanup the association and restore confidence. Many years have passed since then and many new neighbors have moved in, none with a sense of what happened before, but it appears history is repeating itself.

Our HOA is relatively small, with 163 properties. Shortly after my reign, the board contracted with a management company to implement the administrative detail of the association. This is quite common these days as board members have become reluctant to do hands-on work, regardless of how simple it is. During my day, I built a data base for the group and was able to churn out customized letters, dues notices, and much more. I was fortunate to have a treasurer who was an accountant who used some basic PC financial software. Even though this was hardly rocket science, this was all dropped after the board changed and turned the administrative detail over to the management company.

As time passed, our HOA became overly dependent on the management company. Residents complained of the callous behavior of the company. It got to the point where it appeared the HOA worked for the management company as opposed to the other way around. A flash point occurred earlier this year when our new treasurer asked for a series of financial reports from the management company, none of which were forthcoming. This raised a red flag and caused the treasurer to resign from the Board and write a letter to residents explaining his reasons for his departure.

To me, this was deja vu all over again, as the cover-up of financials is what caused the friction 25 years earlier. Instead of publicly answering the former treasurer’s accusations, the president consulted the association’s attorneys which produced some fine gobbledygook to hide behind, thus arousing suspicions in the neighborhood. Had the president answered the treasurer properly, the issue would have been closed, but instead it escalated, fearing something was being hidden from the residents. So much so, the association called for a full audit of its financial activities by an independent firm, a very expensive proposition I might add. This vote to call for an audit essentially meant the board had lost the trust of the association.

As I mentioned, managing a nonprofit organization as small as this is not exactly rocket science. I have written about this in the past, “Managing a Nonprofit Organization.” In such groups, the board has a fiduciary responsibility to its membership. As such, finances, minutes, and governing docs must be transparent. In both instances, 25 years ago and today, this is the cause for the uproar.

As the board hides behind its lawyers, the association realizes they cannot fight city hall and the only thing to do is to fire the board at the end of the year, and start over again with new members (and hopefully without the management company). I am somewhat philosophical about this, as I have a sense of history with this association. It’s good to clear the air every so often. Like any organization, a lot of crud creeps into a nonprofit over time, and without strong management, it will continue to grow unabated (see Parkinson’s Law).

I have served on many board of directors over the years, for a variety of groups. I would have to say though that participating on a HOA board is the most thankless job around. It is essential to keep things simple, transparent, be well organized, and act professionally. In other words, learn Robert’s Rules of Order, print an agenda, get a gavel and give it to someone who knows how to use it. This will go a long way to simplifying work, communicating with your membership, and maintaining their trust. It is rather sad to see neighbors viscerally attack each other and hurt feelings in the process. This type of pettiness and drama is what discourages residents from participating in such associations. Further, this has an adverse effect on the spirit of the neighborhood and is actually detrimental to house values. After all, who wants to move into a neighborhood where everyone is at each other’s throats?

Hopefully, we can begin the mending process once the board has been voted out of office. The only positive effect of all this, is that people are beginning to ask to participate on the board. I’ve been asked, “Tim, why don’t you get involved again?” The answer is rather simple, after I cleaned it up last time, finally getting us to operate in the black for the first time, I stepped off the board, whereby new members changed it and turned everything over to the management company. I cleaned up one gigantic mess years ago, and they screwed it up. I certainly am not going to go through such madness a second time. What’s the old expression, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…”?

Keep the Faith!

P.S. – Don’t forget my new book, “Tim’s Senior Moments” now available in Printed and eBook form.

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2019 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Life, Management | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

CHASING APRONS

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 19, 2018

BRYCE ON NONPROFITS

– What is more important, the institution or our vanity?

Click for AUDIO VERSION.
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

As a follow-up to my recent column on “Do Just One Thing,” I want to describe another problem involving nonprofit organizations, and that is “Chasing Aprons.” This is an expression derived from Freemasonry, the ancient fraternity. For those unfamiliar with the Craft, it is customary for Masons to wear a plain white leather apron at our meetings, symbolizing the aprons worn by workmen years ago. We are admonished there is nothing more ancient or honorable than the plain white apron, yet there are other more decorative aprons awarded as gifts to Masonic officers. Over the years, such aprons have become coveted as a means of identifying a Mason of influence. Unfortunately, some Masons desperately pursue these ornate aprons only to denote their authority, not for accomplishing anything of substance, hence the expression “Chasing Aprons.”

The Masons are not alone in this regards as I have seen similar situations in other nonprofit groups. For example, I remember attending a party when I moved into my neighborhood and a man approached me with some swagger saying, “Hi, I’m John Doe, President of the homeowner association” (it was kind of like, “Hi, I’m the Head Raccoon”). He winked at me, then turned away to glad hand someone else. Frankly, I burst out laughing as he thought he was impressing me. In reality, this same gentleman ran the homeowner association right into the ground and nearly bankrupted it.

At some of the I.T. related associations I was involved in, there would be the usual officer titles, such as President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer, but then there are higher titles such as “Division Director” as you now oversaw several chapters as opposed to just one. There are other names for this, such as “District Deputy” or “Inspector,” but you get the idea. Such titles denote a loftier position and are either given to people to perform a legitimate responsibility or awarded as gifts to cronies.

I have seen people “Chasing Aprons” in just about every nonprofit group I’ve been involved in, be it fraternal, political, professional, educational, even in sports clubs, such as those related to baseball, softball, football and soccer.

I have found people who covet such titles tend to be more consumed with the title, and less about the responsibility associated with it. This is essentially no different than in business where people yearn for a job title for political reasons as it will look good on a resume. I tend to see such people as rather shallow. They never accomplished anything of substance in their life, so the appeal for recognition through titles and aprons is irresistible to them. Whenever I run into people like this, who obviously don’t know what they are doing, I tell others to give the person the title or apron and get them out of the way as they will only inhibit progress.

As an aside, I wonder how many people would volunteer their service if there wasn’t a title or apron involved? It would be an interesting experiment to see if people care more about the institution they belong to or are in it for themselves.

Obviously, this is all about the human ego. In Freemasonry, we are taught the importance of the title of “Brother” as it is a fraternity, a Brotherhood. There are many other impressive sounding titles associated with the Masons, but nothing more important than the simple designation of “Brother” and the plain white leather apron.

Just remember, being called a “thoroughbred” doesn’t change the fact that a jackass is a jackass.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Life, Management, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

DO JUST ONE THING

Posted by Tim Bryce on December 18, 2018

BRYCE ON NONPROFITS

– What can be done to rebuild declining nonprofit institutions?

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To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

When I travel around town these days, I often run into old friends and neighbors who know my background regarding nonprofit organizations (I served on +50 board of directors over the years), and they like to unload their frustrations on me. For example:

* The president of a homeowner association complained he had to serve a second term simply because they couldn’t find anyone interested in serving on the board and perform some relatively simple tasks. Consequently, they were forced to hire a management company to perform these tasks and the annual dues skyrocketed. Operating an HOA is certainly not rocket science, but if nobody is willing to perform these simple tasks, then they have to be delegated to an outside contractor.

* A local club for a major political party is also having problems attracting people to their Board of Directors. Further, not long ago, participation in parades was well attended and gave the club visibility in the community. This year, they could only attract four people to walk in the Xmas parade, an embarrassingly low number.

* Masonic lodges continue to shrink in size in my area. Instead of addressing the root cause of their problems, membership continues to diminish, and Lodge funds are being drained to maintain aging building structures. It’s just a matter of time before they disappear just like the Odd Fellows did in our area.

* Information Technology related associations for adults have disappeared. Back in the day, professional trade groups enjoyed a major presence in cities, such as the Association for Systems Management (ASM), the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP; formerly DPMA), and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Today, these groups are non-existent in the Tampa Bay area (as well as my old stomping grounds in Cincinnati). ACM does maintain student related chapters, but nothing for adults in my area. Other trade groups are experiencing similar problems.

* Attendance at local churches are down. So much so, some have been running in the red for quite a while and are faced with tough decisions for cutting costs, including the firing of pastors. Further, due to lack of participation, the elders have to serve multiple terms.

* Volunteers for public schools are hard to come by these days, not only for general school activities, but for local Parent Teacher Associations (PTA), and School Advisory Councils (SAC).

* Little League programs have shrunk noticeably. In my area alone, children participating have dropped over 50% over the last few years.

It kind of sounds contagious, doesn’t it? So many different nonprofit organizations with similar problems.

In many cases, nonprofits are run by well meaning people who have some time on their hands, yet haven’t a clue as to how to run a business. Consequently, the execution of simple procedures are neglected, e.g.; the preparation of meeting agendas and budgets, issuing routine treasurer reports, auditing finances, or keeping accurate minutes and membership records. For a list of tasks, see my earlier article, “Managing a Nonprofit Organization.”

I guess I have become somewhat of a therapist on such problems as people continue to confide in me. I try to advise them accordingly, but the sad truth is the people running these organizations are frustrated and exhausted. They desperately want to hand the baton off to others, but there is nobody there.

Now and then in nonprofits, someone with a business background comes in, takes the bull by the horns, and does a good job with an assignment. The problem is, it is assumed the person will do it again next year, and possibly for eternity. With rare exception, this is not what people signed up for. To overcome this problem, ask the person to document the steps they used while they were in charge, perhaps through checklists, thereby documenting the procedure for future reference. The person thereby passes this knowledge on to the group overall, and someone else can perform the responsibility. Bottom-line, execution is fairly easy assuming planning is competently performed.

From my perspective, there are three fundamental problems facing nonprofits:

1. Apathy by both the officers and membership who genuinely do not believe a problem exists. The old maxim applies: “You cannot treat a patient if he doesn’t know he is sick.” Such apathy suggests incompetent leadership from the Board of Directors.

As an aside, I tend to believe our excessive use of personal technology shares part of the blame in terms of apathy as people are more imbued with their technology and are losing socialization skills, including volunteering their services.

2. Organizations are stuck in a rut of repetition. They have been doing it wrong for so long, they believe it is right. Instead of making the programs meaningful and interesting, there is little or no imagination to adapt and improve. Again, this suggests incompetence by the Board of Directors.

3. Failure to recruit and train people to succeed the current administration. People today are less inclined to volunteer as in the past. Now, is the time to personally ask for assistance, indoctrinate them in one aspect, and empower them to conquer problems. Start by asking people to serve on committees. To get the ball rolling, simply make a list of committees and tasks, and get everyone’s name on it. To gain their commitment, have them sign their name.

As to this last point of recruiting support, during my talks to such groups I generally admonish all of the attendees to “Do just one thing.” This is derived from Billy Crystal’s movie, “City Slickers,” whereby Curley (Jack Palance) tells Billy’s character the meaning of life involves “Just One Thing” which we must all figure out for ourselves. In terms of nonprofit organizations, I think I have an answer:

If all members did “Just One Thing” for their club, it would be a better place. I am not suggesting we do anything extremely labor intensive; perhaps it is something as simple as being a greeter at the door, preparing name tags, attending a meeting or social function, helping to write letters, or just helping out in some simple way. If we all did “Just One Thing,” the institution overall would be a better place.

Something that might help is the creation of a “Member of the Year” competition based on points for service, and award prizes or special recognition at the end of the year for their service. It sounds trivial, but people react to such competitions. Simply devise a list of activities with related points, and have people notify an officer of their activities.

Where is it written the club Officers must do all of the work? Sure, they have many responsibilities, but it is the job of the officers to formulate objectives and set the membership to work towards some goals. I am amazed by those members who come to such clubs and are not happy with this or that. For example, how often have you seen a member criticize the club, yet make no attempt to lift a finger to help out? We have developed into a generation of “takers” as opposed to “givers,” and this has to stop. Before you criticize next time, figure out how YOU are going to help solve the problem. Do not be part of the problem, be part of the solution.

I guess the following quote sums it up:

“People can be divided into three groups: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.” – John W. Newbern

It is up to the membership, not just the Board of Directors, to each share in the responsibility of making our clubs successful. If we all did “JUST ONE THING,” be it large or small, think how far ahead we will be.

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb1557@gmail.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Listen to Tim on WZIG-FM (104.1) in Palm Harbor,FL; Or tune-in to Tim’s channel on YouTube. Click for TIM’S LIBRARY OF AUDIO CLIPS.

 

Posted in Life, Social Issues | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

THE FINAL ROUNDUP

Posted by Tim Bryce on August 31, 2015

BRYCE ON NON-PROFITS

– What I learned during the years I spent on the Board of Directors for nonprofit organizations.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, send TIM a request.

I made an important decision the other day, namely 2016 will be my last year serving on a board of directors for a nonprofit organization. It’s time for someone else to step up to the plate. For forty years I volunteered my time for dozens of organizations. So much so, I stopped counting when I reached fifty Boards. I’ve served on everything from professional societies for management, computers and systems, to homeowner groups, sports clubs, fraternal organizations, and more.

I coached and umpired baseball for ten years, also serving on the board for the local Little League. One day, we held a practice for my boys team and I was shagging balls in the outfield. It was a beautiful day and it had been a good practice. However, as I picked up the last few baseballs, I looked up and realized I was no longer enjoying myself and it had become more laborious than fun. It was at that moment when I realized my days with Little League baseball were over and I retired from it shortly thereafter. That is how I feel today where I am involved with two nonprofits. Following a board meeting, I suddenly realized it was time to go and I made a promise to myself not to extend any more commitments past 2016 when my tours of duty end.

I didn’t serve on these boards for any accolades or titles, just to help make the organizations better. As someone who has seen quite a bit of the world, I didn’t need such pomp and circumstance. As a management consultant I was fortunate to possess the skills needed to assist such groups, for example: I developed and balanced budgets, cleaned up finances, created data bases to manage memberships, developed web pages and promoted them accordingly, created and updated bylaws, took minutes, developed speaker programs, conducted special projects, developed and distributed newsletters and communications to memberships and met some interesting people along the way. Yes, it took some time to perform, but I had a lot of fun in the process. I like to believe I left each place better than I found it, which should be the objective of anyone serving on a board.

The question is, “Was it worth it?” For the professional societies, I met several people, earned their respect, and learned a lot in the process. For homeowner associations, I believe I played an important role in maintaining the value of homes in the community, if not increasing them. For sports clubs, it was a joy watching my kids, both boys and girls, grow and mature into adulthood. I was also appointed or elected as Chairman or Director at District, County, and State levels for a variety of tasks. All of which were rewarding experiences.

I have learned a lot about nonprofits over the years. However, there are primarily three lessons I wish to convey to my readers:

1. Most nonprofit organizations are run by nice people who haven’t got a clue as to what they are doing. They may have the best intentions, but do not understand a nonprofit is a legal entity in the eyes of the state and, as such, needs to be run like a business. No, it doesn’t take “A Village.” It takes business skills. You realize this when the group can no longer pay its bills or are sued. However, if you are lucky to get the right group together as a board, you’ll enjoy effective leadership, smooth administration, stable finances, good communications, and prosperity.

2. The work of a nonprofit is really not that difficult. It may require some time and effort but I have yet to see a truly difficult task in a nonprofit, and you have to remember I have served in just about every capacity. Something that helps immeasurably in this regard, is the development of “standard practices,” for such things as managing finances, membership, and communications to service constituents.

3. Anyone looking for accolades is joining for the wrong reason. They will likely perform little and assume credit for anything done. Such people are worthless for accomplishing anything of substance, and can hurt the spirit of the organization. Some people are afraid to reprimand such parasites fearing it will create a morale problem. The reality is the morale problem was created the moment the person assumed their position. “But they are volunteers, Tim; you cannot fire volunteers.” Yes you can, and Yes you should as their detrimental outlook will spread and cause problems in your group. Besides, if they are not truly doing anything, you have nothing to lose by replacing them. There is no room for politics in a nonprofit, but unfortunately it somehow creeps into most organizations.

However, when you have a board willing to roll up its sleeves and solve problems or tackle new projects with a spirit of teamwork, it can be a very rewarding experience, not only for how it was performed but also for knowing it will serve the institution for many years to come. In other words, you are adding value to the institution, and this is why I joined such groups, to make them better and perpetuate the group.

Now it is time for others to take my place. My generation of Baby Boomers were taught to provide assistance anywhere we could. I have friends who, like me, have served their Churches for years, civic clubs, local schools, hospitals, country clubs, and more, not just now and then, but for many years. However, it is time for someone else to shag the baseballs, to roll up their sleeves, and perpetuate all of these institutions we have come to love and depend on.

I will likely continue my participation in nonprofits but 2016 will be my final roundup for nonprofit board of directors. It has been a heck of a ride.

RELATED ARTICLES:

Managing a Nonprofit Organization
The Need for Checks and Balances in Nonprofits

Keep the Faith!

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

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

Like the article? TELL A FRIEND.

Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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