Are you "enabling" your board?

I once met with an association to discuss their data management issues. They were explaining to me that the systems they had in place made it extremely difficult to pull together information in a timely and efficient way. For example, in order to get a look at “total spend” from their members, they had to look in several different system, compile it all in a spreadsheet, and then do a bunch of calculations to figure it all out.

At some point in the conversation I asked, “Does the board know how big a challenge this is?”

The director membership replied: “Not at all. When the board asks us for data, we go back to the office and spend HOURS digging it all up, putting it together, and presenting it very nicely to them. They think it all happens automatically.”

I asked: “Do you ever tell them how long it takes to produce these reports?”

Her response: “We’re afraid to!”

This is an understandable response, but unfortunately, what the staff is doing is “enabling” the board. They’re fooling the board into thinking this is easy, when it’s not. And the danger is, when the time comes for them to ask for money to improve their technology and make this kind of reporting easier for everyone, the board is going to say “I don’t understand. You’ve always made this look so easy in the past!”

Are you enabling your board? Do they have any idea how much work it is to provide the data they are asking you for? If they don’t, you should let them know. This doesn’t excuse you from providing the information they request; but they have a right to know how easy or difficult it is to get that data to them.

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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