So I am part of an organization that will not be named, that has a pretty decent member size, with a then small board size that does planning, decision making, etc.

A common problem that our organization is facing is a seeming lack of dedication from members. No matter the responsibilities placed, or what events they plan, the board seems to never be able to rely on the members to do their job, or turn out. An example could include if we were holding a fundraiser and nobody showed up.

These board members will then talk during the weekly meetings to the members about all sorts of leadership buzzwords, all the while blaming the members. However, the more and more it happens, the more and more I'm starting to believe that it isn't the members with a lack of motivation, but the leaders themselves falling short in their ability to inspire and lead to produce results.

Obviously there are some extra details I am leaving out for anonymity, but how can I tell this group that I think they need to reevaluate their own leading skills?

  • Are you a member or fellow leader? – さりげない告白 Feb 20 '18 at 5:24
  • Fellow leader, but a recent addition (last two weeks or so) – wjmccann Feb 20 '18 at 5:26
  • Are the board members present and working during these events? Have you talked to members about their behavior yet? What type of organization is this? – Erik Feb 20 '18 at 7:00
  • "An example could include if we were holding a fundraiser and nobody showed up" What's the expected outcome of informing the board about issues that they already know about? – pmf Feb 20 '18 at 7:41
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    What kind of organisation is this? With "member" I suspect they are volunteers, not employees, right? In that case, the rate of showing up is directly correlated to the boards ability to motivate them, and the board - and only the board - is to blame for the turnout rate. – Polygnome Feb 20 '18 at 9:16

You can't.

This is a delicate situation. You technically could tell them off, but will lead to better outcomes? People typically do not just change behaviors after being lectured. (See backfire affect on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias)

You could bring up the problem of no results, but to get behaviors to change you will need to follow through with action. Think of yourself acting in the following roles and it might produce better results.

1. As a Leader and/or Volunteer

Whether or not you are on the board yourself, you have an obligation to do something, made evident by posting your question here. I notice you said,

I'm starting to believe that it isn't the members with a lack of motivation, but the leaders themselves falling short in their ability to inspire and lead to produce results.

It sounds like this board needs some guiding visionary (such as yourself) to set the mission, vision, and values and some accountability to stick to them. Make a plan that lines up with the organization's mission, vision, and value statements. If they do not have one, or it is poorly understood, update it or create a new one. Make plans that carry out the mission. Stick to the plans. Make time-bound plans in monthly and yearly intervals or whatever is appropriate for the organization. If events have poor results, find out why. Talk to people. Why did not people show up? Who dropped the ball? Could anything have been better managed?

2. As a Coach

Do not complain and do not focus on the negative. Start with the end in mind. Focus on doing the right thing first, and doing it well second. Are there specific behaviors you are noticing that need to be changed? What behaviors should be happening? Ask the board a lot of questions to get them to see and understand how things need to operate. Draw the solution out of them and be specific. Focus on the goals and outcomes, not the list of things you dislike irregardless of their legitimacy.

3. As a Manager

Are events thoroughly planned out and prepared for? Everything from marketing, buy in, market research, to focusing on what your members want should be listed and well thought out as well as every calendar detail. It could be that there is poor planning taking place (in combination with a lack of inspiring vision). Sometimes just having a well executed program of events is all it takes to bring an organization back together. And, to point #1, getting members to volunteer to lead and holding them accountable as owners of those events can help even more. Asking members to help will build trust, accountability, and result in better events - just be sure to lead with the vision first.

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  • Wow, fantastic answer. You are right, and I get what I need to do now! – wjmccann Feb 21 '18 at 1:32
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    Glad to help! I suffer the same in a non-profit. Knowing and doing are also a big difference. It takes discipline to carry this all out. Good luck to you and thank you for stepping up! – TK-421 Feb 21 '18 at 1:34

Been there. Done that.

If your membership is a volunteer group, then you will have a "flakeout factor" that you have to contend with. People will promise to show up, and then just won't.

The "best" (as in "least bad") solution we found was to put ONE board member in charge of a specific task, not the entire board. The members who would volunteer for that task would usually have personal friendships with that board member, and be a little more reliable.

Still, a 40% no-show rate was right about what we contended with.

Good luck!

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  • This doesn't seem to be a requirement. I work in an organisation where the no-show rate is below 10%, but it probably depends heavily on the type of work and the organization. – Erik Feb 20 '18 at 10:23
  • @Erik - Never claimed it was a requirement. Please re-read. – Wesley Long Feb 20 '18 at 15:45

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