Assessing Immediate Needs
As a planned activity, board development provides an ideal opportunity for self-reflection. You will be able to re-engage your broader community, your supporters, and the people with whom you work to gain their insight and opinions about the group's overall goals and the people you need to help you realize those goals.People and Money
The immediate needs of most start-up nonprofits generally fall into two areas: finances and staffing. There never seems to be enough money to get everything done, and everyone already has too much work to do. This is a perfectly normal situation. It is not ideal, but take some comfort in knowing that you are not alone. At this point, step back for a moment and assess where you are as individuals on a board, where your organization is in relation to your personal needs, and how those elements are affecting your programming and mission. Once you have articulated those elements, you will be well on your way to understanding your current situation.
If the person handling your books and other bank business is feeling overworked and underappreciated, she needs immediate help. You may need to hire an accountant. This is a decision you may need to weigh against your desire to remain an all-volunteer group.
Assessing your immediate needs may require your board members to decide if they are happy with how the organization is being received in the community. As you go around the room, record the answers everyone offers. As problems are expressed, find out how these issues might be improved. A discussion of your current needs will lead directly into assessing future needs and developing a plan to address them. This is not a time to be overly deferential or to avoid making judgments based on experiences and observations that may seem harsh.
Every group has its own set of variables, so there is never a perfect time to assess your organization. Ideally, you should schedule a formal assessment every year. It does not have to be a complicated undertaking, but it should be clearly defined. All board members, your board administrator (if you have one), and senior volunteers or staff should actively participate.Don't Complicate the Matter
An assessment can be as simple as making lists of what seems to be working and what needs improvement, and encouraging everyone to offer as much detail as they are comfortable with so the entire board can understand the details. Assessments can take place as part of an already scheduled meeting, at a special session, or even by mail. How you choose to do it is not as important as the fact that you are willing to do it.
The members of your board came to you or were invited to join the board because of their leadership skills and their ability to analyze a situation and arrive at a solution. Now is the time to call upon them to do just that. This is a time to think outside the box.