The Tale of the Super-Involved Board

By Eiledon McClellan and team, Thrive by Five Washington

boss-hiding-facebookIt seems like a normal week at Scrappy Nonprofit. The board is scheduled to go on its annual daylong retreat; the nametags are printed, the packets are prepared. On the agenda is a special seminar on how to be an involved board member, and because word had gotten out how fantastic the session is going to be, every board member shows up for the retreat.

The next day, the staff hears that the retreat went well: The board is excited and energized about the year to come. In fact, the staff notices that at the next fundraising committee meeting, all the board members on the roster not only attend the meeting, but they all suggest friends they can invite to the next fundraising event. A couple of weeks later, the board’s program committee meets, and the program director notices the board members are all eerily familiar with what the programs are and how they work.

The board members start dropping in to the office in between scheduled meetings – and greet staff members by name. This is when the staff starts getting nervous.

One day, the CEO arrives at his office to find the board president is already there, tidying the files on his desk. “Sorry,” the board president says, “I got here early. I was just so excited to talk with you about the board development committee. Ten people have signed up for it! And they all have great ideas!”

Over the next several weeks, the CEO and his staff start peering around corners to avoid running into board members in the halls. When the fundraising committee gathers, the chairwoman announces that every board member will be purchasing a table at the upcoming luncheon … and each would like to sign off on the customized centerpieces for his or her table. The next day, the finance committee chair insists on reviewing every single timesheet from the previous fiscal year, just to triple-check that it aligns with the budget. One board member sits next to the office manager each day and directs her which office supplies to order.

“You should buy these pens. They have superior writing ability.”

A board member who read an article about office worker health comes in to instruct each staff member how to sit ergonomically. As the communications team works on a new suite of collateral, five board members request to review it, and all provide detailed yet conflicting line edits.

Finally, on the day after Thanksgiving, the CEO comes in to the office, seeking some peace and quiet so he can get some work done – without his well-meaning but obsessive board members chiming in. As he starts to catch up on his email, he hears mumbling and noises down the hall. It gets louder. He realizes the board members are closing in.

“I have an idea …”

“Have you thought about …”

“I just read about …”

“You should really wake up to … wake up … wake up!”

The CEO feels a hand grasp his shoulder and realizes it’s his partner, rousing him out of his nightmare. “Oh, I had this horrible dream about our board members … nevermind.”

He gets up and heads to the office, straight into a 9 a.m. board program committee meeting. As he enters the room, he’s greeted by one board member in person and two on the phone. None of them have read the materials in advance.

He takes a deep breath and says, “Thank goodness things are back to normal.”


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