Starting a non-profit is a difficult venture to undertake. However, if you have a dedicated passion for a cause or issue, you should not shy away from it just because it may take time and effort. Once you have laid much of the groundwork involved in building a new non-profit, you will inevitably have to figure out how to cede some control to others while remaining active in the organization. Sometimes it can be difficult to allow others to have decision-making power in the form of board members or an executive director, if you decide not to take that role. Mary Costello, a social worker and founder of Creative Edge Consulting, talks about these and other issues in her article “The Non-Profit Founder’s Dilemma: Tempering Issues of Control and Ownership.” Costello acknowledges the “dilemma” that many non-profit founders face and gives helpful points on how to deal with it. Here are some highlights, inspired by Costello’s article.
Forming a Board
When you first start a non-profit organization, you can choose who is on the board and how the board is organized. Some founders choose to sit on the board of directors. If you do this, remember that all board members have the same say in decision-making, regardless of whether someone is the founder. It is very important that you choose the right people to sit on your board of directors, because these people will be involved in making important decisions for the non-profit. Here are a few tips to remember:
- Don’t choose family members to sit on the board. This can make the non-profit look bad.
- Gather a diverse group of people from different cultures and backgrounds.
- When possible, include someone from the population your non-profit represents.
- Choose people whose beliefs align with that of the non-profit.
All About Ownership
Non-profit founders need to get used to the idea that non-profits are not owned by people, not even the founders. As a founder, saying or implying that you are the owner is not only incorrect, but it also goes against the idea that nonprofits are created to benefit groups of people and not solely the founders, board members and employees. Even though employees are paid and people may gain valuable experience from being involved with a non-profit, the main goal is to provide aid and support for some group or cause. It is probably not a good idea to form a non-profit if this doesn’t sound appealing to you.
As mentioned above, founders who serve on non-profit boards have equal say in decisions. Their votes do not count for more than anyone else’s. Some founders may opt instead to move into the role of executive director. This can be a good decision if you have the skills and leadership ability needed to fulfill this role. Whatever position and duties you hold at the non-profit you founded, it is not acceptable to run the entire show in terms of decision-making. A non-profit board is there to vote on new issues and initiatives, and the executive director must follow their determinations.
If you are the executive director, the board of directors will set your salary. There are many factors that go into determining an appropriate executive director salary for a non-profit. Among other things, the board must create a salary that is competitive enough to keep quality talent but is not excessive. Additionally, the salary needs to stay within the confines of the budget. Do not be surprised if a non-profit job pays less than its equivalent at a for-profit company.It may be hard to give up some control after you do all the work needed to found a non-profit. Luckily, there are ways to stay involved with the organization, help make importance decisions and assist in leading the organization to its next level of success and effectiveness.
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