Old To New Plan

Author: Byron Pulsifer, ©2016

What once was a sound idea for the functioning of a non-profit board no longer appeared to be the right plan or pathway. Something was wrong. Was it the structure of the Board itself, was it the constitution, or was it an issue with all or some of the current members of the board itself? This was the question that faced a new Chair of the Board of Directors.

Background
This Board first came to our attention ( my wife and I) about two years ago. You see, what we originally thought was that we were simply offering our time to help out one day a week. It really didn't matter what we were asked to do, we just did what was needed. But, as the months went by, we seemed to transcend from volunteers to something a kin to dependency. This dependency meant that we came to be seen as a permanent fixture, something more like an employee instead of a contract worker.

This transition brought us into a different sphere of service to one involved more into organizational issues. One of these organizational issues was the on-going workings of the Board of Directors.

Experience
For both my wife and I, organizational issues weren't something new. As part of our past employment in different career categories, dealing with, working with, and finding and introducing resolutions to many organizational issues and challenges was a daily diet. This diet, we thought, was something we had consumed enough of which was why we left our corporate life and moved to a quieter lifestyle where we developed our own business strategy devoid of meetings, employees, conferences and harsh deadlines. It was never our intention to ever become involved again in any "political issues". Well, the point is never say never.

Issue
In this particular case, the current Board of Directors has been operating for approximately eleven years with many of the same Board Members. It would appear that this Board may now be functioning more as a "think tank" rather than a working board. This means, or so we have been told, that while members attend the Board meetings as required (every three months) talking about ideas fills the predominance of the meeting with little to no action. In addition, while the fiduciary governance appears to be strong, there is a complete lack of guidance given to the operational side.

The apparent gaps, in the proper functioning of this Board, appears to stem from several factors. In fact, it appears that the main objections to the workings of the Board comes from the operational side, that is, the persons who seek guidance and leadership in order to carry out their service role on a daily basis. This is not to say, however, that the operational side is the only vocal dissonance. It would also appear that a few of the current Board members also find the Board meetings to be more dysfunctional than functional.

So What Does It Matter?
So, what has all of the rumblings surrounding the functioning of this Board have to do with us? Does it really negatively affect our role as volunteers?

The short answer to these questions is simple: nothing and no. We are not part of the Board, therefore, it has nothing to do with us - we are immune from its rumblings. As well, no, our role as volunteers is not affected since we are able to continue offering our services doing roughly the same jobs we've been doing for the last few years.

Immunity Is A Fable
Now, you may be asking, what do we care if all we want to do is be volunteers? That's a good question. The answer may not be what some people want to hear. For some people, once they have been involved in whatever it is and having left that circumstance out of choice, it makes little sense to ever do what was done before. Maybe that feeling is right for you. For example, let's say you were a auto mechanic and you decided to leave that trade once and for all. Does this mean that you would never touch another car again? Maybe but maybe not.

What if a friend asked you to diagnose a problem they were experiencing? Would you ignore their request? Would you simply tell them to go to their own mechanic? Maybe. On the other hand, what would it take to utilize a skill that you had developed over many years especially since it was a friend who was asking? What would it take away from you, or more importantly, what could giving a little of your time and experience to give someone a helping hand?

Are we all to be immune from getting involved in anything else in our lives once we have formerly retired or left whatever vocation it was? Maybe, we are not as immune to using our experiences as we think. After all, does our experience count only when we are paid for our services or is their more to the human story than that?

Involvement Is A Fable
Please don't get the wrong message. All of what has been said or asked doesn't mean that you are wrong if you choose not to get involved, or choose not to offer your services to those in need when you have already made up your mind that what was once a daily job is not to be in any form hereafter. It doesn't mean that you don't care; maybe it is that you simply want to spend time doing what you've always wanted to do without having the pressures of work.

To others, maybe it's time to get off the couch and show that you really are a resourceful, caring and compassionate person. Maybe, you just haven't let yourself be involved in a volunteer role where you are not only needed but truly appreciated for your giving attitude and contribution.

When Past Work Becomes A Calling
Back to the story about the Board and its' needs. Sometimes, it is far easier to skip involvement. Sometimes, involvement means experiencing more of the same you experienced before only to realize that you shouldn't have gotten involved again. Sometimes, however, new involvement is a catalyst for further growth. It may be growth anew because you've had time to reflect on your past experiences realizing what seemed important at the time is of little importance if at all. However, the real growth begins afresh when you take the best you've learned, identified the mistakes you've made so that they do not play a role again, and find that a new beginning based on the best practices of the past brings renewed vigour and an inner peace that comes from contributing to someone else's benefit.

Involvement doesn't have to mean losing anything. It's really more about gaining through giving, contributing new ideas and assisting those who want or need help without even knowing what they need or want. It can be as simple as providing a new set of eyes, a new insight, seeing what others can't see because they are too immersed in issues.

Don't turn your back on utilizing experiences that can help others move forward in life. The spawning of new ideas may come from old experiences reviewed afresh amongst the needs of others.

Inspirational Quotes for Reflection:
"Skill is the unified force of experience, intellect and passion in their operation." John Ruskin

"They serve best who give most of themselves. Self is forgotten by the one who serves, for such a one rejoices to see success coming to others through his or her efforts." James Cash Penney

"One kernel is felt in a hogshead; one drop of water helps to swell the ocean; a spark of fire helps to give light to the world. None are too small, too feeble, too poor to be of service. Think of this and act." Hannah More


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