Organizational Leadership: When was the last time you audited your organization?

I’m teaching on “organizational leadership” in our Effective Leadership & Advocacy Course at the University of Maryland this evening and while reviewing the objectives I thought some of this information would make for a good blog post.  My approach for this particular lecture is to get students to be “skeptical” and think critically about how effective their current organizations are at achieving their missions.  Unfortunately, this approach was inspired by my own awful experience right out of pharmacy school serving on a nonprofit pharmacy organization board.  I never thought I would sit in an executive session to discuss firing an executive director and the legal action necessary due to the actions of that trusted executive…but I did and I was only 26 years old.  So to say the least, I have a healthy skepticism of all organizational leaders – but that actually serves as a motivator for me to be an active member and ensure that “checks and balances” are in place so one rogue leader doesn’t dismantle an entire association or foundation.

For class tonight, I’ll be covering the “6 major areas of nonprofit governance and management” identified by the Standards of Excellence Institute that nonprofits go to in the state of Maryland.

Strategy

An organization should have a very clear mission and vision.  As a member, ask yourself – “Why does this organization exist?”  Then follow up with, “What do the sponsored organizational programs/activities do to support or advance that mission?”  Keep it simple and just start here.  Many organizations get off track from time to time in pursuit of an “innovative” idea or special interest from a small section of its members, but in the end everything should come back to the mission.

Leadership

There should be clear governance guidelines written in the bylaws and a clear understanding of who has authority to make decisions.  Most organizations use Robert’s Rules of Order to help guide board meetings and a deliberative assembly of the membership.  This has been an area of interest for me and a big reason why I eventually want to serve as Speaker of the House for the American Pharmacists Association.  Most of my work in nonprofit organizations has been around governance of the leadership team and consulting on ways to improve the organization’s constitution and bylaws.

Legal Compliance

This one usually seems like a “no-brainer” but surprisingly many organizations fail to truly audit this.  Organizations must consider all applicable federal, state, and local laws.  For student organizations, they should also consider university rules, policies, and the honor code.

Finance and Operations

In addition to leadership governance, the finance and operational checks and balances are probably my biggest interest.  I usually teach this to students in its most basic form: “Who sets the annual budget for your organization?” If I get a puzzled look I then follow with, “You do have a budget…right?”  When the students still look confused my hope is that for some of them a big alarm goes off in their head and they say, “Holy crap, we don’t have a budget!  We need to get our executive board together and create one!”  Student organizations may not have a ton of money, but they likely have a few thousand dollars and it is a perfect place to learn tough lessons about managing and MONITORING an organization’s finances.  All it takes is a bad treasurer or president to blow a thousand bucks from the student org checking account for everyone to realize that serious checks and balances need to be in place.  A lesson many people will not learn until later in life when there are more zeros at stake.

Resource Development

This basically boils down to sustainability.  Where does your revenue come from and will it be different next year or 5 years from now?  All organizations need to understand how they make money to support operations and advance their mission.

Public Awareness, Engagement, and Advocacy

What does the public know about your organization?  This is an issue for pharmacists and tends to come up over and over – we seem to be really good at talking to ourselves but not that good at explaining what we do to the masses.

I hope this quick synopsis of the areas from my class have you thinking about the nonprofit organizations you belong to.  I also hope you become a more skeptical member and more interested in asking tough questions of your leaders.

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Joey

Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy located in Baltimore, Maryland. Joey has managed retail and long-term care pharmacy operations in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Leading Over The Counter is a blog of Joey’s views and opinions on the topics of pharmacy leadership and management and do not represent the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Joey can be followed on Twitter @joeymattingly.

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