I’ve been doing non-profit work now for more than 30 years−yikes! Or as my daughter would say, “Well you are kind of old…” It’s true and it actually is comforting in that there isn’t a whole lot I haven’t seen. So with all of this experience, I have developed a profile for my ideal board and committee member.
Here’s why MIP and MIPsy are such great partners:
Listen and hear. MIP attends meetings and really listens not only to what is being said, but to what the speaker means. Being able to pull out the nugget of intent and review it without prejudice and bias is an invaluable talent; hearing what is being said for its own sake and not through an already-made-up mind opens up possibilities.
Solve Problems. MIPsy has the ability to always keep the goal in mind, pull out the issues of concern from every prospective, and either come up with the solution or identify the questions that need answers before we can do so.
Have My Back. MIP is my partner in every sense of the word. If there is something I need to know, he shares it; if I’ve screwed up, he lets me know in the kindest of ways. If I have a problem, MIP helps me think it through and come up with solutions. If MIP disagrees with me, he does it respectfully and never embarrasses me or other Board members publically. I have a committee member who met with me the day before my budget was to be presented to our Finance Committee. He ripped it to shreds and said, “What were you thinking?” He then proceeded to help me problem solve and come up with strategies to defend my budget. When presented, he was the biggest cheerleader.
Ask Questions. Some of the greatest ideas come from new committee and board members when they ask questions that they worry are going to be stupid or ignorant. First of all, it forces all of us to take a breath and make sure that everyone is on the same page with the same amount of information. Asking hard questions makes my life easier because perhaps I missed something, something doesn’t make sense, or it is unrealistic. Secondly, I can’t tell you how many times a newbie has asked a question that hadn’t occurred to anyone because that’s not the way we’ve been doing it. Gems come out of many newbie questions.
Value Time. MIPsy takes on an assignment and does it within the agreed upon time frame! MIPsy also respects staff time and is as responsive as possible to emails and surveys. I can’t tell you how many staff I’ve had to pull off the ceiling because committee members don’t respond to meeting surveys/doodles and it holds up meeting planning and moving the work along. Of course, MIPsy is on time for meetings, too!
Kind and Supportive. MIPsy tells me when I’ve done a good job (even if she assumes my ego is so big I don’t need the compliment). MIPsy is kind to staff, thanks them often for the hard work completed and appreciates good work. She doesn't let staff know that she thinks she could really do the job better if only she weren't so busy!
Realistic Expectations. MIP is always mindful of work/life balance and keeps his eye on the highest priorities. Historically, non-profits have prized workaholics and have turned a blind eye to stressed out, exhausted staff. MIP wants a happy and well-rounded staff, knowing that they will work harder and be more loyal if their job descriptions are actually doable.
Provide Financial Support. MIPsy gets that while non-profits can’t work without volunteers, they also can’t work without being able to turn the lights on. MIPsy and MIP are both generous to their capacity, understanding that helping to support the organization’s core operations is critical.
Bring Other People to the Party. MIP introduces me to his friends and colleagues for committee involvement, potential contributions or support (in our case legacy planning), leadership development or simply to spread the word to make sure that more and more folks know about our good work.
Have a Wonderful Sense of Humor. MIP and MIPsy are serious about our mission and celebrate doing good things with humor and joy. Volunteers and staff put in long hours of intense work. Laughing together makes the work fun and helps forge wonderful relationships that may get tested during stressful times.
I’ve been blessed to work with many MIPs and MIPsys over the years. They are a joy and they keep me at my absolute best.