Questions from A New Organization About Their Annual Event

Sections of this topic

    The email said that the “new” organization has one major event every year, and their Executive Director appointed one of their new board members as the event chair for this year because she (the ED) was pretty much burned out from doing everything over the last two years.

    She anticipates having to continue to play an active role because volunteer contributions and commitments are minimal. She indicated that last year the Event Chair held/conducted/attended no planning/progress meetings after the initial one; and, she only got involved in those activities that benefitted her agenda which, in many cases, were at odds with the agenda/needs of the organization.

    This year the board assigned the Event Chairmanship to their new board member who has a doctorate and experience on other boards and even is the Executive Director of one of them.

    But, again, The ED is seeing the same behavior. A person that is promoting their self-interest and doing their own thing and not conducting matters as they should but as they see fit to align with their personal and professional agendas.

    The ED says that she is baffled. “What should I do? Have an event chairperson and a vice chair? Should my role include always stepping in when others drop the ball? Should this be included in the bylaws? What is the appropriate action for an ED to take?”

    After reading the above (which I have paraphrased and edited for brevity and so as not to identify the writer and her organization), I responded as follows:

    Putting something in the By-Laws locks you into doing “it” that way. Having the board adopt a policy would put the requirements in writing, and would be changeable as required by circumstances.

    But, whether in the By-Laws or as a Policy, it makes no difference if the person(s) responsible for planning and implementing an activity won’t follow the “guidelines.”

    You indicate that your organization is new, which leads me to ask how the Board Members were recruited, and what is required of them.

    You also mentioned that you appointed a Board Member to be the Event Chair, and the question that comes to mind is how you, as the ED, get to appoint/direct the Board or its members to do anything. That’s backward. The Board Directs the Executive Director … who is not a member of the Board.

    So, back to your Event Chair…. It may be that your organization is so young that the people you have been choosing don’t feel obligated to put your organization’s needs first. They may see the Event Chair position only as a means to enhance their visibility.

    It also strikes me that recruiting Board Members and/or Event Chairs who hold positions with other nonprofits can set up a conflict of interest … with your interests lagging.

    Your Event, at this early stage of your organization’s existence, may not be one of the activities that community members see as a must-attend. If it’s not one of the “highlights” of the nonprofit community, it won’t draw Chairs or Co-Chairs who will put the required energy and time into it.

    Like any activity you want someone else to do, they have to want to do it, so you must determine what it is that would make your “Chair” adopt that frame of mind.

    And, as to the duties of an Event Chair, typically the focus is on making a significant $ gift to support the event and getting others to do the same. An Event Chair should not have to deal with the logistics.

    And, if the Board Members you are “asking” to make the Event happen don’t have the appropriate experience/skills/willingness to learn….!!

    I seem to have raised more questions than I’ve answered, but the issues are part of the reality of successfully running an organization/event.

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