Association Board Members Shouting ‘Not It!’ in 2021?

Leigh Wintz

The CEO and Board Partnership in Tweet Relief

Social media can be motivating and depressing. Just like a new year can make some people feel hopeful and dismayed.

For example, my newsfeed of late makes me wonder if many not-for-profit board members have completely abdicated their responsibilities for oversight and future thinking. Have you seen the same?

A Slash and Burn Approach to Governance

Are some of the changes in chief staff officers because it is the only way the volunteers who care can regain authority? 

I’ve written a lot in the past about the merits of a strong CEO and Board partnership – it can be an imperfect dance.

If volunteer and staff leadership went into the pandemic as a team, they are coming out the other side with the same vision. They are finding a path forward with an understanding of their members’ world.  

I’m still seeing examples of what appears to be mindless expense cutting and a total lack of responding to what members NEED. Association members should be heard as things shift dramatically. Decisions should be based on researching their actual needs and not based on what staff thinks members want. Staff, in some instances, are making decisions in order to preserve their jobs.  

In some associations, the staff has seized control. In some instances, that control was gladly handed over.  

Clarity in Culture is Even More Important Now

Did you receive a playbook for the pandemic? Because I didn’t. We didn’t receive an updated edition of the ASAE Handbook of Professional Practices in Association Management when COVID-19 arrived on the scene. There wasn’t for 9/11, either. But this situation has gone on way too long for traditional “crisis management.”

Patterns have been set, reinforced by culture and norms that have not been articulated or understood throughout the organization. 

What Happens Next?

I’m interested in seeing is how successful new CEOs from “outside” the organization fare in the next year or so.  

In a recent survey, I was surprised to see that more than 1/3 of the respondents expect that things will get back to “normal.” Uh. NO. I think most people want things to be easier post-COVID, but the virus is still with us. Some things have forever changed.

 The one thing you can be assured of is everything IS different. There is not one way forward, no safe path, but by golly, there are a lot of organizations – and businesses – who cannot see the forest for the trees, let alone a path through it.  

Does It Matter?

The Chesire Cat said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”  

Some associations will succeed despite any actions taken – or not taken – by the leadership team. But I think Yogi Berra’s quote might be more applicable, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”