What’s it like to sit on a non-profit board? I am about to find out......From my work and friendships struck up through the local volunteering, I started January 2020 invited to sit on 3 different local volunteer group boards. I knew this was probably too much to handle (in addition to my art - which gets priority, 2 bookclubs, frequent travel, local political activism, and la ronde social life) so I decided to give it 30 days and see how it went. Three different groups / experiences:
The Denton Community Market
In it’s 11th season, the DCM runs from April - December of each year, meets in our beautiful county historical park, features live local bands, and is the largest farmers + makers market in DFW other than the one in downtown Dallas. It averages over 5,000 visitors per Saturday throughout the season. Venders / sellers are vetted, and no re-sellers allowed (no booths selling junk from Asia or just junk). Farmers are local and mostly organic. Crafters are juried and only the top 3 in each type of art are selected. Market days include tie-ins with food trucks, local seasonal / C of C events, yoga classes, kid and dog activities, and is FREE to enter and experience. Come on by and check it out! There’s always something fun going on.
Not to be confused with master gardening - a group which covers a diverse array of gardening topics, interests, approaches, and strategies - The NPSOT educates the community on native plant preservation and habitat - only. Earth-wise, native plant, water-wise gardening techniques. Various local chapters focus on micro-climes and regional habitats, plants, and the critters that interact with them. NPSOT has educational meetings, a plant sale, and falls under the umbrella of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Preserve.
To become an MG is to commit to a year long journey with a college level semester long course and 70+ hours of volunteering in the various local MG projects. Programs vary by county but mine has many projects, large and small, from state and regional wild nature parks to community flower and vegetable gardens, children’s programs, bee keeping, rose and orchid clubs, wild habitat preservation in waterways and prairies, to golf course maintenance, speakers groups for HOAs, libraries, summer camps and churches, plant sales, plant related arts and crafts, field trips for schoolchildren, food production for local food banks, Arbor Day tree give-a-ways, organic, non-organic, and more. It’s a huge group that donates 1000s of unpaid vol hours to our community every year.
I have had the interesting education of serving on 3 boards of volunteer organizations this past year (descriptions and order above is scrambled, for privacy). My experiences:
#1 was efficiently run, financially stable, but its members were grouchy assholes, and everything was done by a small group of old timers, resistant to fresh ideas, new members, or even basic technology updates like online sign up sheets. Every question I asked p.o.’d people, every offer of help p.o.’d people, every idea I had p.o.’d people......everything I did p.o.’d people......even when I bought and brought my own art supplies and opened up the art activity to all interested folk p.o.’d people.......snacking on an 8 hour vol stint p.o.’d people......starting my own personal FB page with ideas and conversations p.o.’d people......even my personal FB posts p.o. people. Up until this experience, I had thought of myself as a jolly sort who got along with just about everyone....No role for me or anyone else to find and play; wondered why I was there.
#2 was sort of a creative afterthought, run on a catch-as catch-can strategy, no clear goals. I was given many conflicting tasks to do by various members not communicating with each other, who then complained when I did (exactly as directed) the stuff I was told to do (bc no one knew what was going on) by the CEO. Simple stuff, PR.....nothing serious. Unorganized, and as a teacher friend of mine said, “If I’d wanted a lot of different people telling me what to do then complaining about it, I’d have stayed in teaching! This is not what I retired for- to add to my stress.”
#3 was a hot f-ing mess, in serious financial disarray due to poor decisions past and ongoing, a CEO who had been fired but refused to leave, constant churn of board members in and out, hiring unqualified inexperienced employees in paid positions, liability and safety issues not addressed, an ED who refused to follow Roberts Rules of Order (refused to carry out what board unanimously voted to do). Once monthly meetings morphed into 24/7 group texts and zoom meetings....I got to where hearing that “ding!” on my computer made me want to throw up.
Can you guess my reaction to these 3 situations?
At the end of January, I resigned from #1and #2 of the boards (not a good fit with my personality, skills, and interests) but stayed on the one I felt most passionate about, for awhile longer.....Then Covid-19 pandemic came and the quarantine shut it down. Still feel like I could maybe help them - I am very organized, a hard worker, have marketing experience from my days at P&G, Used to think I worked well w others, know lots of local folk to help, pull in, from my political activism....But am concerned about liability issues.