“I don’t understand what we do?”
The question hung in the air. The executive director, just three months on the job, did not know what to do with it. It all seemed quite obvious to him and yet this long-time board member was not getting it even though he had been talking to her for the last hour about the organization they were both supposedly committed to.
“Is she stupid?” he wondered to himself. “Or am I the idiot.”
The organization seemed to have so much more potential when he applied for the job—a positive national reputation, a board full of influential community leaders, and nice size cash reserve. But it was all a house of cards. Within weeks his finance director announced a budget shortfall equal to half of the organization’s operating budget. Goodbye cash reserve. Massive staff lay-offs and program changes that immediately followed put that national reputation in danger. And finally, his influential board did not seem very interested in being an influential board for this organization including the person sitting in front of him at this very moment.
Instead of wondering why he and his wife quit good jobs and moved 1000 miles, he tried to push the conversation forward repeating much of what he had said earlier. Speaking slowly and providing extra emphasis to key words like ‘mission’ and ‘program” just in case his board member’s english was not as good as his.
“Our M-N-R program is really the centerpiece of our work, providing diverse opportunities for our participants to connect with professionals in the field…”
He noticed her eyes beginning to glaze over, and began to imagine that he sounded like one of the adults on a Charlie Brown television special: “wha wa wa wha wa wa wa.” But then she interrupted him and nonchalantly dropped a bomb.
“That’s all well and good, but why should I care?”
He stared back.
“Why the !@#$ are you on the board? Why the !@#$ are you coming to meetings once a month and offering stupid ideas that will never happen? Why the !@#$ do you write measly checks once a year when I know that you can easily write three times as much. I’ve seen your house. Why should you care? Why should I !@#$ing care.”
Before all of this came tumbling out, he took a deep breath and instead replied:
“I don’t know.”