I recently asked a fantastic board member to take on a new role with WARM. He is committed, intelligent, reliable, and productive. He has secured new resources, actively participated in evaluation and planning discussions, and completed his duties faithfully.
All nonprofit directors want people like him to take on formal leadership positions. So, I asked.
He did his homework before answering. He talked with the board member currently in the role about the time commitment and specific duties. He considered his other commitments to work and family.
And then, he politely declined.
Although I was disappointed, hearing “no” was music to my ears. Why? For several reasons.
He took the role seriously. He determined he didn’t have time to fulfill the new role with excellence. He would not give WARM anything less than his best, which says a lot about his character and his respect for WARM’s mission. I take that as a compliment!
He took steps to prevent his own burnout. Board members typically love the mission and don’t want to let anyone down. Sometimes, they say “yes” so often they burn themselves out in a few years. This board member took care of himself so he can go the distance with us, which is a great example for other board members as well as the WARM staff.
He avoided problems that could have arisen months from now. If he had said “yes” and not been able to follow through, it may have held up an important project, cost WARM an opportunity, or damaged our reputation. At the very least, over-promising and under-delivering causes frustration and wasted time. This conscientious board member didn’t want to risk that, and I respect him for it.
We’ve created a board culture of accountability. Over the past decade, my board leaders and I have worked hard to establish a results-oriented culture. Hearing this board member’s “no” means we are succeeding because we attract leaders who have high standards for themselves, each other, and the organization.
The board member is happy to continue serving on the board, and I have more confidence in him than ever. He will continue to shine in his current role. When he says “yes,” I know I can depend on him to deliver.
The bottom line is: don’t be afraid of saying “no” to nonprofit leaders. You just might make their day!
JC Lyle has served as WARM’s Executive Director since January 2009. Under her leadership, WARM's annual revenue and productivity have more than quadrupled. Prior to working in the nonprofit sector, Lyle worked at McKim & Creed on subdivision design, rezoning and permitting throughout coastal North Carolina. Lyle earned her Master of Business Administration from UNCW's Cameron School of Business and has presented workshops on affordable housing issues and nonprofit management at state-level conferences. Lyle serves on the Planning Commission for the City of Wilmington and the North Carolina Housing Partnership, the board that oversees the state's housing trust fund. In 2012, Lyle was named Wilma Magazine's first Woman to Watch in the Nonprofit Category. In 2014, she accepted WARM's Coastal Entrepreneur Award in the Nonprofit Category, given by the Greater Wilmington Business Journal and UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In 2018, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Cape Fear Chapter named her Outstanding Fundraiser of the Year.
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