Community Leaders Could Take a Different Approach to Help

I recently spoke with a nonprofit Executive Director about an upcoming meeting that is giving her angst. Her organization launched a new program last year, and it has had a few “bumps in the road.” It’s not surprising given that the program is new. Despite the bumps, the Board of Directors is fully supportive. The team staffing the organization continues to be excited about this newest venture.

And yet – there is an issue.

There are members of the community who are concerned about the program – about the organization’s ability to manage the program, about the staff’s expertise to run the program, and about the outcomes they perceive that are not being met. So these community leaders have asked to convene a meeting with the Executive Director to “talk through a solution.” These community leaders are not investors in the program. Aside from a passion for the program, they are not engaged with the program or organizations in any way. But – and here is where it gets tricky – they are “community influencers.” They are well connected. They are the ones who can legitimately say, “I’ll have my people call your people.” They are the ones whom everyone wants to connect with at a networking event. They are the ones featured in the Washingtonian and Washington Business Journal – in a positive way.

So the Executive Director feels that she has no choice but to meet with them and hear them out. She has no intent to change the program in any way. But she still feels as though she has to “kiss the ring.” Wouldn’t it be great if the community leaders came to the conversation with an attitude of, “How can we help?” rather than the agenda of, “Here is what you are doing wrong.” It could be a much more powerful conversation. Instead, it will likely be a waste of everyone’s time, and there are no benefits in that.

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