Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Firing The Executive Director.....how much do you tell the public?

Being volunteers, it is hard when a Board of Directors has to make the decision to fire an Executive Director.  But the real tricky part is how you explain it to the public.  Because most people don't like airing their dirty laundry in public, most cases are handled privately, with either 'no comment' or 'they left to spend more time with the family' type reasons provided.  This I believe to be extraordinarily misguided strategy.  If you are to keep the trust of donors, media and collaborators then transparency and openness is required.....even if it requires you to share exceedingly bad and embarrassing details about your nonprofit.

A case I've been following out of my old stomping grounds in Bozeman, Montana illustrates this point.  Following the abrupt 'resignation' of the Executive Director, the Board chose a policy to not discussing the issue in public.  Information vacuums are generally filled by innuendo, rumor and suspicon....which is what happened in this case.  "I can't believe I had to call and beg you to answer ourquestions," shouted one volunteer at a subsequnet meeting Board members held with their donors.  A fiasco ensued when the Board remained tight lipped and provided nothing but sterile bureacratic answers.

It will take years for Heart of The Valley Animal Shelter to recover...as well as leave lingering clouds over the career of former Executive Director Traci Weller.  Openness and transparency would have prevented this...

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