Welcome to another episode of Ask a Nonprofit Director. As we all know, EDs are excellent problem solvers. That’s why we are paid so well. But why stick to just nonprofit problems? We would make kick-ass advice columnists for everyday dilemmas! (Check out Episode 1)
Dear Nonprofit Director: We recently moved to Seattle from Texas, and my 14-year-old son has been having challenges adjusting. He has no friends, spends all his time in his room, and just looks sad and miserable all the time. It breaks my heart to see him like this, as he was always an outgoing and cheerful boy. What can I do? Beginning to Lose All Hope
Dear BLAH: Huge changes can severely affect the morale of any team. Take your son to lunch to express your concerns and listen to his side. Oftentimes, just knowing that you care can do a lot to raise his spirit. Work with him to figure out a strategy to ensure he has a meaningful and productive experience while in Seattle. For example, perhaps he can join a gluten-free baking club, an artisanal urban farming chicken raising class, or an organic biking meet-up group. If things do not improve, you may want to consider counseling. In any case, express to your son your expectations that he meet the outcomes you and he agreed to when he joined your family.
Dear Nonprofit Director: My four siblings and I live in the same city. We used to be very close until last year, when our oldest brother decided to spend Thanksgiving with his partner’s family out of town. So then my younger sister figured it would only be fair for her to spend Christmas skiing with her friends, which led to my other brother deciding to go to Vegas. My mother was very hurt, and now no one is looking forward to this year’s holidays. I’m trying to be the bridge-builder but I’m getting tired. Stuck in the Middle
Dear Middle: Your family may benefit from a weekend teambuilding retreat to reenergize and develop a strategic plan for how you spend the holidays. Determine your objectives and budget, then draft up an RFQ to hire a facilitator. During this retreat, make sure you do some trust falls and other team dynamics activities involving blindfolds. Do not leave the retreat without a one-year action plan as to who will spend which holiday where, along with specific metrics and evaluation instruments to determine if each holiday was successfully enjoyed.
Dear Nonprofit Director: I am thinking of giving my seven-year-old a small weekly allowance to teach him financial responsibility. My husband is reluctant, insisting that kids should just be kids. Who is right in this situation? No Clever Acronym
Dear NCA: A team cannot function if each of its members does not have clear roles, responsibilities, and autonomy to make decisions. Giving your son an allowance and a clear line-item budget along with an orientation on which items he has full control over will increase his skills in financial management, develop his sense of ownership and investment, and relieve some of the burdens on you and your husband to take care of certain lesser purchases, such as food and clothing. Make sure your son documents all his spending with receipts so that you can do final accounting at the end of the fiscal year.
Dear Nonprofit Director: My daughter seems to favor her 10-year-old son “Billy” over her 12-year-old daughter “Abby.” It is sadly obvious. Abby gets into trouble all the time for the littlest things, while Billy can get away with anything and is rather spoiled. Abby confided to me that her mother is unfairly biased toward Billy and asked me to intervene in her behalf. I told my daughter this, but she became resentful and said I was intruding on her rights as a parent. What should I do? Concerned Grandma
Dear Grandma: The children are your daughter’s direct reports, so she does have the right to supervise them without intrusion, within reason. You made the mistake of intervening in your granddaughter’s behalf, which now creates tension between your daughter and granddaughter. What you should have done, and should do next time, is to encourage Abby to give feedback directly to her mother. This helps to increase respect between the two and helps Abby learn to problem-solve. If this does not work out, you may have to consider if your daughter is the right driver for this bus.
Dear Nonprofit Director: My boss has severe halitosis, smelling of a toxic combination of rotting garlic, sardines, and compost. Plus, he’s a “close-talker.” I dread any one-on-one meetings with him. How do I politely tell him without hurting his feelings or putting my job in jeopardy? Hate It Down in Ellensburg
Dear HIDE: Most people do not know that they have bad breath, which may be a sign of dental or even heart problems. They tend to appreciate the feedback, since very few people are courageous enough to deliver it. Let your boss know in private, and also tell him that he’s too close when he talks. If you feel that being direct might put your job in danger, it may be helpful to bring in a consultant to survey all the staff about the work environment and write up a report. Oftentimes, you can say something for months and get nowhere, but a consultant comes in, says the exact same thing using a report with some colorful graphs, and your boss will think it’s pure genius.
“Ask a Nonprofit Director” is the premiere syndicated advice column on life issues from the perspective of an Executive Director. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be published in Episode 3. Also, check out Episode 1 of “Ask a Nonprofit Director” for even more awesome advice.