We frequently have individuals who are starting new organizations ask "who owns" a nonprofit. They often believe that can retain control by having family members and friends on the board. I recommend that anyone founding a nonprofit see Normal Heart, a play by Larry Kramer, now running at Arena Stage. It is primarily about the early days of the AIDS epidemic and the birth of the activist movement. But it is also a cautionary tale about social activists and how they interact with the nonprofits they spawn. In this case, Ned Weeks, the AIDs activist, is ejected from the board of the organization that he founded. His aggressive, unrelenting in-your face manner is seen as hindering the organization's progress as it moved into the mainstream. And, the board members were his friends! This scenario is not unique.
- Keep in mind that, if you are considering starting a nonprofit organization, you are giving your ideas to the world!
- If you are asked to be a board member by a friend, consider what it will do to that relationship!
One technique for dealing with this issue is planning ahead. Founder Transitions: Creating Good Endings and New Beginnings: A Guide for Exective Directors and Boards by Tom Adams tackles this issue.
Please pass along other resources and strategies that you have found helpful in resolving this situation so it is a win-win for all parties.