In the wake of the fallout from the Kids Company shambles and other more recent implosions, there are two learning points for the non-profit sector which are worth highlighting. Although most organisations in the membership and associations space have trustees who are far more engaged and (in my experience) capable than those involved with KidsCo, this sad tale has highlighted two problems which our organisations can have in common with service charities - Founders syndrome and infrequent reviews of Board/strategy/procedures.
Firstly, Kidsco demonstrated that most unfortunate circumstance where the passion and drive of the organisation’s founder becomes an insurmountable block to progress if they are unwilling to hand over the reins to those who know how to run the organisation with efficiency. Effective strategic and succession planning by a capable board should sort this issue out in a diplomatic way. Running membership organisations and professional associations is a specific skillset which is not reliant on having a background in the specific context within which the organisation works, i.e. you don’t need to be a qualified kid’s social worker to run an organisation which provides children’s services. That knowledge is the additional layer which completes the skills package.
Secondly, any and all organisations benefit from regular reviews of their activities, either in part or in total. For non-profits, the need for regular reviews of board strategy and the procedures linking the board to the staff, along with reviews of board members’ effectiveness, understanding and involvement will ensure that the organisation is functioning at maximum effectiveness.
If you have the least doubt that your trustees/Directors are not as up to date as they should be or are not functioning at full capacity on behalf of the organisation then now would be a very good time to consider running an objective review of how they work and how effective they really are. Some recent reviews I've facilitated have demonstrated that even seemingly small adjustments can have major benefits. Others have shown that it was time for some more radical changes to be implemented. The common factor was having a totally objective eye providing an overview of the status quo.
If the idea of having an outsider looking into your activities feels uncomfortable, it would perhaps be wise to consider what you might be forced to rectify later. So make that call, you will not regret it.