I completed a Nonprofit Administration Minor program at the University of Montana in 2013. The program included in-depth analysis of the role of nonprofit boards to govern and take a vested interest in the culture, growth and propriety of the organizations for which they work. It is the role of the board to support and help guide the organization, and most importantly, to govern. Oversight and active involvement is key to effective governance. While some Executive Directors prefer an absentee board so as to retain autonomy, my philosophy is one of cooperation, transparency and investment; the board should be impassioned evangelicals. An ideal board is not comprised of individuals looking for an easy resumè booster or feather in their cap; an ideal board is passionate, enthusiastic, and willing to govern with zeal toward the mission of the organization they serve. The board should know what is happening, and be actively engaged in reviewing documents and working with Executive and Development directors on fund development and capital campaigns. Importantly, boards should be aware of what makes a good Executive Director. It is common for an Executive Director to be selected on their technical acumen and passion to increase a sphere of influence over a resource in which they are invested. While this can certain drive an organization in the early stages, real growth comes from experienced leadership and experience in growing organizations and telling their story. One could make a parallel to restaurants. While an inspired and talented chef can make an extraordinary meal, it doesn't make them good at running a business. The key to building an exceptional organization is understanding that nothing is bigger than the mission, and getting the right people with the right skills to propel that mission is critical.
Outreach, Marketing and Development Leadership can take some of this pressure off an Executive Director. While few small organizations can afford them, it is the critical role of the Marketing and Outreach Director or communications department to harness and direct the evangelism of the board, staff and dedicated followers toward organizational goals. While technology can certainly act as a crutch in lieu of dedicated marketing, outreach and development personnel, true growth and connection between an organization and the community it serves only comes from dedicated and experienced staff propelling those initiatives.
The Parks Tourism and Recreation Management program at the University of Montana required basic accounting courses in addition to the emphasis upon organizational finance through recreation programming courses. A central focus of the Nonprofit Administration Minor program at U.M. was to cultivate a comfort and acumen with nonprofit financial documents and processes. Budgeting, restricted v.s. non-restricted funding, and the particulars of endowment bequests were covered in addition to fund development basics and strategies. This academic experience and exposure combined with nearly twelve years of personal business experience running a recording studio, event promotion company, freelance media development and a successful rental property in Illinois have equipped me with a robust working knowledge of the basics of accounting and finance as it supports the solvency and efficacy of organizations. While I certainly was not born with a gift for finance, accounting or mathematics, years of experience working with these kinds of issues and documents, plus my extensive experience with asset allocations and reporting during my five-years at a wealth management firm have equipped me with the hard-skills necessary to navigate the issues that typify a guiding role in any organization.