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GJ Entry #18: Banish the Ghost of EDs Past

All you executive directors out there. Are you tired of hearing the stories about the days of yore when money rained down from the sky and the streets were paved with gold? Are you comparing yourself to the previous executive director(s) who spent their time depositing big fat grant checks?

Well, I’m here to lay that ghost to rest right now. Because this roller coaster of financial ups and downs is the new normal. Get to know it better. Friend it. ‘Cuz it will be your new BFF for quite a while.

The halcyon days of 2002 to 2008 resulted from the bubble economy. A bubble that burst in the early fall of 2008. And I for one don’t want to go back even if I thought we could.

I can tell you there is good news. As today’s executive director, you get to define success in a new way. The best indicator of your organization’s success might be how well you can maintain your financial health, in this current economy.

In order to maintain your organization’s financial health, you’ll have to learn a new word. NO. Granted not a pretty word. Probably rarely used by your predecessor. But an essential word if you define success as maintaining your financial health.

Gracefully and skillfully you’ll need to say NO, when new program ideas arise or new staff needs surface. Now is the time to focus in on what your organization does best. And now is the time to talk in your coalitions about your real level of capacity. Remember the sum of your coalition work adds up to more than its parts. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, just necessary.

Do yourself a favor, stop comparing yourself to the ghost of EDs past who enjoyed the golden days and focus instead on your success right now. It’s a whole new world. And we need you facing it head on.

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