Sometimes we need to evaluate life with and without nonprofit Board participation. With that in mind, I visited the Land of Lost Board Members. It’s a sad place, neither here nor there, misty and gray, random meeting minutes floating through the air and a bylaws quagmire at the edge of Main Street. There I found a forlorn soul. He was a sad looking gentleman with a great emptiness about him.
“Excuse me,” I ventured, “Can I help?”
“Its ‘may’ not ‘can.’” He looked at me. “I was the newsletter editor for thirteen and three
quarters years. Did that matter? Nooooo. They started putting the letter online – who knows all that software? Not some useless oldie like me. Folks enjoyed my newsletters. The insider jokes, the cogent pleas for funds, the popular volunteer corner. Folks stood in line to be the volunteer of the month.” Sigh. “But now, nothing. Do I matter anymore?”
Wow, I struck it rich on my first encounter. “What do you mean, do you matter? Of course you do. There is always more work to be done!” I was on a roll. “You haven’t been abandoned – you should just consider that you have been reassigned. Agencies have to grow and change, but that shouldn’t mean you aren’t useful.”
“Do you think so?” Was that hope I saw in his eyes? “Do you think they still want me? What could I possibly do for them now? Its probably time for new thinking.” A tear spattered on his shoe.
“You’re right. Each year, it is time for new thinking. But that doesn’t mean the old thinking was wrong or useless. And on close examination, you may find that new thinking is only as good as the old thinking that laid the groundwork for………..”
“Are you suggesting that my service and work continues to have value?”
“Exactly. And if you helped build a strong agency, future board members will be grateful for your work and vision.”
“Just a minute here, girlie.” I turned to find myself facing a disheveled woman with a pitted and scratched identity badge. Her name and agency affiliation were obscured, but her title, Executive Director, stood out.
“Are you addressing me?”
“You bet, girlie. Are you one of those folks that keeps telling old board members they are still wanted and useful?,” She demanded.
“Just as I thought. Why do you keep encouraging them to stay in touch? Good bye to old thinking is what I say! I want my agency to move and I don’t need deadwood or tired blood getting in my way,” She was militant.
“So, what are you doing here?” I asked.
She looked around. “I was sent here to look for contributions.”
“No you weren’t,” interrupted a hovering Spirit of Members Past. “You were sent here for CONTRITION.”
“Contrition? What? I’m in hell?”
“Well, it’s not Kansas,” breathed the Spirit.
“Or Oz,” piped up my sad friend.
The old Exec looked at us. “Where am I?”
The Spirit of Members Past sort of hrrmmphed and was wadding up some old finance committee reports to fling.
“I think,” I ventured, “that you are in the Land of Lost Board Members to atone for the way you may have treated old board members. My guess is that you didn’t respect them for past service, nor value the continued contributions that they could make to your agency.”
“Well, what do old timers know?” she stomped.
“They know your history, they are loyal. They usually have given countless hours and steady financial support to a cause they believe in.”
“And what happens to us?” the little man cried. “Abandonment, neglect. All I know is I need to continue to belong. I can see that times change and new ideas should come forward. But my past work and commitment should count for something.” He was glowing as he spoke.
“Well, I can see that we’re on the road to learning a good lesson here today,” I was smug in my self satisfaction. I was ignored.
“What’s that you say?” the Executive Director’s voice quivered as she turned to the gentleman. “Abandonment you say? Ha! What about me and the agency? One day you’re there, the ‘go to guy’ for every problem, and the next day you’ve dropped us for a sexier issue, a younger ED,”
She swallowed a sob.
I thought there was a moral here somewhere, but I was busy dodging bound copies of Strategic Plans, besides my new friends were lost in their reconciliation under the protection of the Spirit of Members Past.
February 2006 Cosmic Questions