Thursday, August 4, 2011

The joy of nonprofit governance

Where do we find the joy in nonprofit service? In reaching out to others on behalf of our organizations? How do we build the joy our board members feel in fulfilling their essential leadership responsibilities?

Cheyenne attorney - and longtime community servant - Greg Dyekman closed this year's Snowy Range Nonprofit Institute with an absolutely perfect talk, titled "The Joy of Working in the Nonprofit Sector." Greg is an old friend of the institute. He spoke at our very first event in 2002. He's facilitated sessions on tough topics (accountability, anyone??) and left everyone informed, happy and energized. We knew what we were doing when we asked Greg to offer an inspiring close to the 2011 institute. Once again, he more than delivered.

Greg encouraged us to focus on meeting three needs in connecting with others:
  • Opportunities to help. People want to help; nonprofits need to provide meaningful ways for that to happen.
  • To feel needed. People want to feel good about themselves, and they want to belong. Nonprofits offer rich opportunities to engage authentically and, in the process, feed this need.
  • To feel like they've made a difference. They want to matter. They want to contribute to something good and something bigger than themselves.
The nonprofit sector is unique in its capacity to meet all three of those needs, he reminded us. As individual organizations, and as a sector, we can help people find joy. We can provide that to donors, volunteers, staff members and, yes, board members.

Days after Greg's talk, I'm still feeling inspired. I'm still feeling hopeful. I'm also thinking about how, as our marvelous speaker challenged us, we need to ensure that service via governance is a joyful experience for our boards.

My initial instinct was to offer my own interpretation of Greg's three keys as they might apply to boards. I may act on that impulse later. But today, I'd rather leave you with his marvelously succinct message and challenge us all to reflect on how we can bring joy to nonprofit governance. How are we meeting these three needs for our board members?


Anne W. Ackerson said...

Hi, Debra --

As I read this post, I said to myself, 'these three needs also drive those of us to be employed in the nonprofit sector!' -- at least, they do for me. Another example of common ground between boards and staff.


Debra Beck, EdD said...

Absolutely, Anne! Greg's talk ultimately focused on the sector as a whole, though he did encourage us to consider how we might address these three needs with our boards (which, you KNOW I couldn't resist!).

These ultimately are human needs. Whether we consider how we are meeting them for our supporters, our volunteers, our board and - definitely - our staff, they offer wonderful focal points for remembering what draws most of us to this work.

Lesley Wischmann said...

I was just thinking about Greg's talk yesterday as I was working on a talk to give this Sunday at the Alliance for Historic Wyoming's house party. It was really an inspiring talk and, combining Greg's message with the "flip the mission" concept you planted, has me pretty excited to give this talk and see how it works!

Thanks Debra & Greg!!