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Learn how you can intervene if there's a problem or a gap and to make sure that the functioning of the organization isn't disturbed or interrupted.


  • What does day-to-day maintenance consist of?

  • Who's responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of an organization?

  • What do you actually have to do to maintain an organization from day to day?

You've been asked to serve on the Board of a local community-based organization, and you're visiting its offices for the first time. You notice that the floor doesn't seem to have been swept in months, and when the receptionist looks for a piece of paper to write down your name, he can't find one. Participants are milling around, apparently, as you hear from their conversation, because a staff member hasn't shown up for their meeting. You realize you haven't heard much about this organization from friends and acquaintances, except for rumors that it's constantly in financial difficulty; you've never seen it represented at any of the numerous community events and meetings you've attended. You've only been in the office for a minute, and you're already wondering whether you want to be associated with it.

Your impression of this organization has been colored by its apparent lack of day-to-day management. Section 1 of this chapter is intended to help you develop a management plan for your organization. But all the plans in the world won't do you any good unless you carry them out efficiently every day. The day-to-day maintenance of an organization - the nitty-gritty tasks that carry its work forward - is what really determines whether it will be successful or not.

These tasks cover not only the obvious details - getting the organization's work done each day, keeping track of money and supplies, cleaning the office - but the larger issue of relationships, both within the organization and between the organization and the community. It's been said that God is in the details, and that's just as true for managing an organization as it is for raising children or running a country. This section will help you think about how to keep those details under control.

What does day-to-day maintenance consist of?

Nearly all areas of management require at least some day-to-day attention.

The work of the organization

Each day, whether your organization runs programs, provides services, or pursues advocacy, you have to make sure that the right people are in the right places at the right times to do the work of the organization. In addition, someone has to carry out the everyday procedures (record keeping, attention to how well particular techniques are working, etc.) that make evaluation possible.

Fiscal management

Someone has to keep track of finances and make sure that the books are kept properly, that employees and bills get paid, that income gets to the bank, and that there's enough money in the checking account to keep operating. Someone also has to keep track of grants and contracts, and be responsible for contact with funders.

Personnel management

Handling problems among staff, keeping current on what everyone's doing, maintaining a positive organizational climate, arranging or overseeing supervision, organizing staff development, evaluating staff performance, and generally making sure that everyone's happy and focused on her job - all of these demand daily attention.

Board maintenance

Maintaining regular contact with the Board and keeping it informed, assisting Board involvement in the organization, and sustaining relationships with individual Board members are all ongoing tasks that need to be addressed regularly.

Relationship with the larger community

The organization's relationship with the community it serves needs to be fostered constantly. You must continually keep the organization's profile high, inform the community of what you do and of the needs of the target population, make friends and allies, and communicate with the media if you're going to get the community support you need.

General logistics

Somehow, in the midst of everything else, the floors have to get swept, equipment has to be maintained and repaired, paper and other supplies have to be ordered before they run out, errands have to be short, life has to go on for the organization.

The spirit of the organization

An invisible maintenance task is that of maintaining the passion for the work and the belief in the vision and mission that drive most grass-roots and community-based organizations. This is almost always the work of the leader, and, though not always conscious, is among the most important of her day-to-day tasks.

Who's responsible for day to day maintenance?

It's beginning to look like the day-to-day maintenance of an organization requires a lot of work. Who's going to do it all? The answer to that question depends on a number of factors: the size of the organization, its structure, its geography (i.e. whether everything happens in one office or space, or whether the organization is spread out over several spaces, or even several towns), and the particular talents of its staff members.

In a smaller organization, or one that doesn't have a large administrative structure, most of the day-to-day management will probably fall on the director or coordinator. If the organization really is small - a couple of staff, one office - that's usually not a problem. If the organization is administratively understaffed, it can become a very large problem, because it can lead to a lot of the work simply not getting done. In a larger organization, or in one where the director simply can't handle everything herself, there are creative ways to ensure that everything necessary is accomplished.

  • Delegate work to other administrators. Administrative staff can split up responsibilities for day-to-day management.
  • Hire a bookkeeper/accountant. Many organizations have such a person on staff, but others may contract with an independent bookkeeper who works only a few hours a week. That way, they get the money-management services they need without having to pay more than they can afford.
  • Split day-to-day management duties among several staff members. Some people on staff may have skills in management areas, or may simply gain satisfaction from particular tasks. This solution may be especially useful in situations where parts of the organization are geographically separated.
  • Share some functions among all staff (or staff and Board) in rotation. Serving on community committees, making public presentations, cleaning up at day's end, buying the coffee - these are all tasks that could be handled in turn by many people in the organization.
  • Hire a cleaning service or other outside concern to take some of the burden
  • Share services with another organization

There are even more creative ways to get the messy stuff done. You can ask everyone to stay late and clean once a month or so, and follow the clean-up with a party. You could even invite families in and buy or chip in for pizza or something similar.

In some community-based organizations, participants help out, either as volunteers or as paid workers. You may even be able, in some circumstances, to pay them out of grant money. Other possibilities are to recruit volunteers particularly to help out with maintenance tasks, or to find a community business that's willing to give you some service in return for a tax write-off or the publicity value. While most maintenance tasks need to be done by staff members, most of the chores that fall under logistics can be delegated to someone else.

Regardless of how you parcel out the work, however, it's important that some individual - usually the director - oversees the day-to-day management. Someone has to understand the overall view of the situation, so he can intervene if there's a problem or a gap, and make sure that the functioning of the organization isn't disturbed or interrupted.

What do you actually need to do to carry out the day-to-day maintenance of an organization, and how do you do it?

Now that you've figured out the areas you need to address and who'll be responsible for each, what do you actually have to do to make sure everything goes smoothly? What exactly do you have to pay attention to daily, or on most days? And how do you make sure that attention gets paid and necessary tasks get done?

In many cases, you can set up systems to make sure that things get done on time. Some may be as simple as deciding that when the last box of copier paper is down to four reams, it's time to order more. Others may be far more complicated, and may need official organizational policies to guide them, along with a policies and procedures manual so that everyone will know what those policies are. Whatever the situation, it makes sense to try to anticipate problems and snags and to set up systems, where possible, to counter them before they become emergencies.

In general, the tasks of maintenance come under eight headings:

  • The actual work of the organization
  • Financial management
  • Personnel management
  • Board maintenance
  • Community relations
  • Logistics
  • The spirit of the organization
  • The big picture

The work of the organization

There are a number of areas that must be attended to if the everyday work of the organization is to get done effectively.

Making sure the work gets done

In the event of illness, a personal emergency, weather, etc., the right systems can be lifesavers.

  • A system for notifying administrators, participants, other staff, and anyone else who needs to know when something is canceled or delayed, or when someone is unable to be where he's supposed to. In addition to specifying to every staff member whom she should call in that situation, some possibilities are:
    • Designated phone callers
    • Staff and/or participant phone or contact chains (a participant without a phone might be contacted by another who lives nearby)
    • E-mail lists
    • Radio and/or TV announcements (for weather cancellations)
  • A system for substituting for staff who can't make it. To avoid canceling programs or services when staff members are sick or unavailable, a common strategy is for an off-duty staff member to cover another's hours, and then have the other return the favor later. Many organizations that can afford it include money for substitutes in their budgets. If you lack the resources for this, it may be possible to create a pool of volunteers to cover for absent staff members.

Record Keeping

Most organizations need to keep records, whether for tax purposes, for internal evaluation, for accountability to funders, for external evaluators, or for use in publicity, fundraising, or advocacy. These records can range from simple notations of staff or participant hours to long discussions of activities and achievements. They may include test results, samples or descriptions of participant work, medical reports, etc.

If record keeping is to be accurate, it needs to be timely, with staff members making entries each day they work. Everyone has to know what he is responsible for recording and when, and someone has to make sure that record keeping doesn't fall by the wayside in the crush of other tasks. No one likes to do paperwork, and it's often the first thing to be ignored when work piles up. Once you fall behind in it, however, it's difficult to catch up. If recordkeeping is important for the organization, you have to attend to it in day-to-day management.

Regular staff meetings

Staff meetings - weekly if possible - give staff members and administrators a chance to keep informed about what's happening in the organization, to share ideas and successes, to help one another with problems, and to take on organizational tasks. In order for meetings to be effective and reasonably enjoyable, you have to engage in some preparation.

Someone - it might always be the director, but it could also be someone else, or be a rotating position - needs to take responsibility for chairing meetings, and for generating and/or gathering agenda items. That could mean taking calls or e -mails from other staff during the week before the meeting, or posting a paper or electronic agenda sheet where anyone can add to it. It could also mean distributing the agenda in advance of the meeting, or distributing materials that relate to particular agenda items (spreadsheets, letters from other organizations, etc).

If you want food or drink at meetings, someone has to buy it, whether the organization pays for it or staff members take turns providing it. Finally, someone has to take care of any specific preparations: getting an easel and newsprint, for instance, or making sure that staff members have completed assignments from the last meeting. (For more on staff meetings, please see Section 4 of this chapter, Promoting Internal Communication.)

Staff development and information-sharing

No matter what your organization does, staff members will be more effective if they have the chance to learn new ideas and techniques that will help them become better at their jobs and to share experiences and ideas with one another. Offering everyday encouragement here might mean programming some time into staff meeting for discussion of what people are actually doing, what's been working for them, new ideas they've encountered, etc. It might also mean developing an in-house list-serv, specifically for exchanging this type of information. You might start an in-house staff development program, which either brings in presenters or rotates responsibility for staff development presentations among staff members.

In any case, someone - again, whether the director, some other individual, or staff members in rotation - has to take responsibility for polling staff members about their staff development needs and preferences, finding presenters, and scheduling or preparing presentations. This becomes even more of a day-to-day task if staff development meetings are frequent (e.g. weekly or biweekly).

Program development

It's important to realize that no matter how well you do your job, it can always be improved. Good program development (working on ways to improve what you do, planning new initiatives, incorporating new ideas, etc.) is a daily activity. At the same time, it depends on the organization and everyone in it taking a long-term perspective that views the organization as dynamic and subject to constant change.

Program development requires that anyone involved in the work of the organization - particularly program directors, grant writers, and line staff - be ready each day to make suggestions or enter into discussion about new possibilities or changes to make the organization's work more effective. That can be institutionalized through regular meetings or through a written or e-mail discussion system, or both. In any case, it should be part of the day-to-day work of the organization.

Advertising and/or recruitment

The organization might as well not be doing its work if no one knows it's there. A constant task is to make sure that the public and the target population are aware of the organization's name and work. If you offer programs or services, then part of that task is informing the target population and recruiting participants. Everyday attention to all this requires:

  • Keeping in touch with the local media, placing press releases and stories about organizational activities, writing or renewing advertisements when necessary, holding press conferences, etc.
  • Maintaining a presence in the target community (through the work of line staff, regular contacts with key individuals, street outreach, whatever it takes.)
  • Enhancing the organization's image through public speaking, attendance at meetings and forums, service on committees and boards, etc.

Fiscal management

Perhaps no other aspect of organizational management needs as much day-to-day attention as the financial aspect. Fiscal responsibility requires keeping control of your money in a number of different ways.


Whether you do it yourself, have an in-house bookkeeper or accountant, or hire it out, day to day bookkeeping and accounting have to be correct and current. Expense and income journals have to be kept up to date (usually within a few days, ideally daily), and the general ledger - the overall financial record of the organization - has to be updated and balanced regularly. In addition, you have to keep daily or almost-daily track of your budget, so you know just where you are in relation to what you planned for income and expenses. Perhaps most important, you have to manage your cash flow, so you don't run out of operating money; this is also a daily or almost-daily chore.

"Cash flow" refers to the actual flow of money through the organization, as opposed to what's on paper. If you're owed $500.00 by your friend, but he hasn't paid you yet, and you only have $5.00 in the bank, that's a cash flow issue. You can't pay your electric bill with the fact that your friend owes you money.

Organizations deal with this issue all the time. Money from grants and contracts often flows slowly, and fundraising is unpredictable. Bills, on the other hand, come regularly, and salaries have to be paid. How well your organization manages cash flow can make a tremendous difference in its health, financial and otherwise.

Billing/receiving, paying bills, and payroll

There should be a regular payment and billing schedule, so that bills get paid on time, there's a steady flow of income, and cash flow stays relatively healthy. The daily details here seem obvious, but, especially in a large organization, they can easily get lost. You have to ensure that someone gets the mail every day, that the bills get to the right person on time, that checks get deposited quickly, and that bills are paid with a constant eye, not only on the bank account, but also on what's about to come due.

Payroll, in just about all organizations, is handled on a regular schedule, but there need to be ways to address holidays, payment during vacations, and other issues that break the pattern. Some organizations have their payroll taken care of by a payroll service or a bank, which takes the burden off staff members, but may be complicated in a situation like those mentioned. How flexible are you prepared to be about payroll?

Tracking grants and contracts

Each grant or contract that funds the organization brings with it daily responsibilities. You'll need to track each grant or contract separately, so that you can compare it to your budget, and decide whether your original spending plan was adequate, or whether it needs to be changed. The funder expects you to know how much of your funding you've spent at a given time, and in what categories you've spent it. If you're billing on a contract, particularly, you'll have to provide documentation for your spending, which means that you have to copy all receipts, payroll stubs, etc. that pertain to that contract. Much of this tracking and record-keeping requires daily or almost-daily attention.

Ordering and purchasing materials and supplies

Especially where materials and supplies may be crucial - in a community clinic, for instance, or a child nutrition program - the staff members who use or distribute them must have an avenue for making their needs known. In some cases, the responsible staff members may do their own ordering; in others, they may have to submit their requests to someone else. In either case, there should be a system so that materials and supplies are constantly available (i.e. get ordered often enough so that they never run out), at least as long as the money lasts.

An efficient day-to-day ordering process has several elements:

  • The person closest to the particular materials or supplies in question has a guideline for when more is needed
  • That person first checks with whoever knows whether there is enough money available, and where it will come from
  • If there is enough money, depending upon organizational procedures, he either places the order himself, or asks the appropriate person in the organization to do so
  • When the order is placed, the cost is conveyed to the bookkeeper or whoever is responsible for making sure that expenses get recorded properly

Many organizations streamline this process by having the bookkeeper or director do the ordering. She will know if the money for ordering is available, and can then record the amount as soon as the order is placed. She might also monitor the use of materials, and ask questions if it seems significantly different from past use.


The day-to-day issues here include:

  • Who goes to the bank when there's money to deposit or other banking to be done.

     Your bank may be able to provide you with a direct deposit option for at least some of your daily banking needs. Thus, funders or purchasers of your service may be able to send checks directly - either through the mail or electronically - to your bank to be deposited in your organization's account. You may be able to arrange for automatic payment of some bills as well. Depending upon how efficient this system is and how accommodating your bank is willing to be, such an arrangement can save large amounts of time and trouble for your organization. 

  • Who can actually write checks. In some smaller organizations, both the director and a Board member may have to sign each check, or any check over a certain amount. This can create logistical problems if one of the signers is unavailable at a crucial time. In most organizations, checks are normally signed by one of two or three individuals, with someone having oversight over the whole process.

    If, for instance, both the director and bookkeeper can sign checks, the bookkeeper might pay the bills, but the director will decide which bills should be paid before the bookkeeper gets them. Another standard procedure is one person normally signs all checks, but one or two others are authorized to sign if that person is unavailable.

  • Someone needs to keep track of cash flow and make necessary adjustments (e.g. holding up on ordering or waiting to pay certain bills until more cash is available ).
  • Guidelines for transferring money between and among accounts (interest-bearing and non-interest-bearing, high and low interest, Certificates of Deposit, etc.) should be developed and followed.

Personnel management

Day-to-day personnel management has to operate on two levels: one is the actual management of both regular and unexpected personnel issues; the other is maintaining an organizational climate conducive to staff job satisfaction and enthusiasm, and - as a result - organizational effectiveness.

Day-to-day management of personnel issues

In order to keep everything running smoothly, someone must oversee:

  • Supervision. Making sure that supervision happens for everyone on a regular basis, and that supervisors know for whom and for what they're responsible.
  • Awareness of - and attendance to - potential problems before they become more urgent. Such problems might include:
    • Interpersonal problems among staff or among staff and participants or community members
    • Issues of poor staff job performance
    • Issues of job satisfaction, compensation, work hours, supervision, etc. that relate to the enthusiasm of staff members for their jobs and the work at hand
    • Philosophical differences among staff or between staff and administration, staff and Board, administration and Board, etc. about the mission and methods of the organization
  • Handling actual personnel problems and crises. For most of these, there should be organizational policies, but policies only outline the actions to be taken. Addressing these issues capably demands tact, interpersonal and listening skills, patience, flexibility, tolerance, fairness, firmness, openness to unusual solutions, and a sense of humor. These issues might include:
    • Official grievances
    • Interpersonal disputes
    • Official warnings or reprimands
    • Firing (for insubordination or poor performance)

Firing a staff member, both because of the organizational disruption it causes, and because of the possibility of a lawsuit, is not something to be entered upon lightly. There should be a clear procedure of warnings, documentation, etc. so that the staff member in question understands exactly what the problem is, what he can do to correct it, what kind of help is available, and what the time limits are.

Maintaining a favorable organizational climate

Organizational climate is the way an organization "feels," both to those who work in it, and to those whom it serves or who have contact with it in other ways. The ideal for most grass roots or community-based groups is an organizational climate that's comfortable, welcoming, and relaxed. In order to establish and preserve such a climate, there are some steps you can take every day:

  • Make time every day for informal conversation with staff members, both individually and in groups. You don't have to talk to everyone every day, but lunch, five minutes at the copier, a shared task - all are occasions for human contact. These conversations can strengthen the organization in several ways:
    • Life in the organization will be seen as comfortable and pleasant, and the trust that is built in these interactions can carry a long way in times of trouble. Organizations work better when everyone feels a human connection to others in the organization.
    • You can learn of conditions in people's lives that are affecting their jobs, and that can be eased by adjustments at work - increased time flexibility, a change in title, etc.
    • Professional issues may also surface. Philosophical differences, feelings about work or the organization, new ideas, etc. can turn into productive discussion and organizational growth if they're acknowledged, rather than simmering into resentment and anger if they're ignored or unmentioned.
  • Provide opportunities for staff members to socialize and play together. This doesn't have to happen weekly, but an optional social occasion or recreational activity a few times a year can do a lot toward creating a relaxed and friendly climate, and helping people work together.
  • Pass around praise and credit freely, both in private and in public. Tell staff members how much you appreciate what they do, and especially single them out for what they do well. If you can give them credit in the community - through newspaper articles, "employee of the month" awards, citations by other organizations - so much the better.
  • Set the organizational tone by your own behavior. If you're the director, you can imply the dress code - formal, "business casual," or none - by what you wear. If you want to hear the truth from staff members, you have to be willing to give out the truth in turn, and to deal reasonably with the consequences in both instances. If you want the organization to be a warm and friendly place, you have to be warm and friendly. If you want people to work hard, you have to demonstrate that by your own work ethic.

Slightly different from organizational climate is organizational culture. The organizational climate is the way the organization feels day to day; the organizational culture is the way the organization is. It develops over a long period of time, and consists of the assumptions that the organization makes about itself. The ideas that go into its makeup are those not only of the people who work there, but of all the people who have worked there in the past.

Whether your organization is established or new, you and its current staff are creating its culture from day to day. What kind of organizational culture do you want to foster? Do you want to be known as a great place to work, as one that accomplishes its goals in an atmosphere of harmony and shared enthusiasm? If so, you have to think about that every day, talk about it, make it apparent, and model it, working with others in the organization to achieve a climate and culture that will make the organization what you want it to be.

Board maintenance

Boards are not self-sustaining, but need care and feeding, just as staffs do. There are some everyday things you can do to keep your Board productive and running smoothly.

  • Someone, almost always the director, must keep Board members - particularly the officers - informed about the organization and what it's doing. (Board members, in general, don't need to know about day-to-day operation or management, except to understand the organization, but should be informed about any major positive or negative events or conditions that affect the organization as a whole, and about changes in financial matters.)
  • The director should meet regularly - often weekly or biweekly - with the Board chair to discuss ongoing issues and projects, to plan meetings, set agendas, etc.
  • Meet with individual Board members (perhaps only once or twice a year, but if you have a large Board, this means a meeting every other week or so) to make sure that they have Board work that they enjoy and that matches their talents, that their ideas are being heard, and that they feel satisfaction about being part of the organization.
  • Keep track of and plan for Board training needs. Monitoring training needs is especially necessary with Boards that include participants or members of a disadvantaged target population. They may not have had experience on Boards or committees, or even in meetings, and may need not only training, but support and mentoring in order to feel comfortable as Board members, and in expressing their ideas and opinions.

Community relations

Maintaining good relations and credibility in the community can greatly increase the health and effectiveness of your organization. While a good bit of this task usually falls on the director, larger organizations may split it up among several administrators and staff members. Whoever in the organization engages in community involvement, there are some specific actions they can take in the service of good community relations.

  • Attend and participate in meetings of open community groups - economic development coalitions, human service agency councils, health promotion committees, etc. Be willing to take responsibility in these groups if you have the time, and to demonstrate your ability to generate good ideas and to carry them out competently.
  • Network, network, network! Try to forge relationships with individual community members and leaders - business people, elected officials, doctors, clergy, educators - so you'll have friends and allies who are respected voices in the community, and who understand what you do and why it's needed.

Having personal relationships can solve a whole host of problems. One organization had outgrown its quarters, and desperately needed inexpensive space. The director called the most important real estate broker in town, whom he knew from United Way and other functions. Through the broker's intervention, the organization found exactly the space it needed at a price it could afford.

  • Make and maintain connections with other organizations and agencies, community groups, individuals, etc. to ensure smooth referrals and transitions from one program to another for participants, and to strengthen recruitment. These connections may be at many levels - administrators, line staff, support staff, and volunteers.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with the media, and with individual reporters, columnists, and editorial writers. Call them with interesting stories or information, and get their help in composing ads, press releases, etc.
  • Be willing to serve on organizational and community boards - human services, hospitals, foundations, etc.
  • Speak in public at every opportunity where you can call attention to the work of the organization, or to the needs of the target population. Possibilities include service clubs (Kiwanis, Lions, etc.), religious organizations, community forums, and public hearings on matters that concern the target population or the work of the organization.
  • Encourage everyone connected to the organization - staff, participants, volunteers, Board members - to participate in the life of the community, both as citizens and as representatives of the organization.


The daily concerns here are really basic:

  • Keeping the office or workspace clean and relatively neat, which may mean doing it yourself; staff, volunteers, or participants (paid or unpaid) or a combination sharing the responsibility; or hiring an individual or cleaning service
  • Ensuring that everyone knows who's opening and closing the office or workspace and when
  • Dealing with security issues

There should be clear security guidelines, but someone has to handle day-to-day concerns and deal with actual situations - a disappearing key, a participant's abusive ex-husband at the door, a broken car window. Depending upon what's needed, that "someone" might be the director, the person in charge at the time, a large male staff member, etc.

  • Paying attention to the condition of equipment - copiers, computers, phones, etc. - and maintaining, repairing, or replacing it when necessary. Everyone should know who's responsible for equipment, and whom to report problems to.

Equipment use may be an issue as well. If computers are at a premium, for instance, everyone should know who gets priority, whether it's participants at certain times of day, or the director when she's writing a grant proposal. There may be times when someone has to referee a conflict or potential conflict over who gets to do what when.

  • Monitoring services, from phones to the organization's law firm, to make sure that everything is working properly and getting done when it's supposed to.
  • Addressing daily emergencies - not just security, but flooded bathrooms, illness, power failures, bad press...whatever has the potential to seriously inconvenience or harm people or the organization.

The spirit of the organization

Most grass-roots and community-based organizations (and many more "establishment " organizations and agencies as well) have a sense of mission and purpose and a belief in what they do that goes far beyond merely liking the work. The success of much health, human service, and community work depends upon a passion that keeps people going even when things look bleak, and keeps them from becoming complacent when things are going well.

It's largely the responsibility of the organization's leader to nurture and support this passion, and to inspire it by example. She has to be endowed with the passion itself, and to communicate that. But she also has to have the courage to uphold her and the organization's principles in the face of opposition, the ethical compass that allows her to choose the route that keeps to the moral high ground, the strength of character to remain optimistic in tough times, the creativity to keep the organization moving forward and improving, and the tenacity and commitment to stay with it for as long as it takes. All of this can be viewed as part of the daily maintenance of the organization.

This is not the sort of thing that can be taught in courses, but it is what keeps an organization going from day to day, week to week, and year to year. In order to sustain an organization in this way, a leader probably needs to do most or all of the following:

  • Find a personal outlet of some sort - anything from psychotherapy to weightlifting to a regular informal meeting with other organizational leaders to discuss the trials of organizational leadership. Burn-out is the greatest danger of intense, active leadership.
  • Strive constantly to be proactive rather than reactive. Engage in, and engage others in, planning and other forward-looking activities. Maintenance, on some level, must be seen as moving forward: maintaining momentum, rather than just holding place.
  • Cultivate and train new leadership, so that the burdens of leadership and the spirit of the enterprise are carried by many, and there are others in the organization capable of filling the leader's shoes if and when she decides to leave.
  • Remind people every day about why they're there, and try to continue to provide reasons for them to stay. Maintaining workplace quality of life, and maintaining a shared sense of mission are part of building and sustaining a successful organization.

The big picture

An often-neglected part of management, whether day-to-day or long-term, is monitoring the organization as a whole. All of the day-to-day management items above add up to a whole greater than the sum of its parts. As a manager, you need to be aware of how everyone and everything in the organization works together, and of when something isn't working right. You need to set up feedback systems so that you can understand relationships within the organization, the relationships of the organization with the rest of the world, and how these influence one another. You must have an understanding of the whole as a whole, and be able to see how intervention in one place will affect other areas.

This section presents day to day management as a series of tasks and proven principles, but it's also an art. You have to act on your gut feelings as well as your intellect; if something feels wrong, it probably is. Every organization needs someone - usually the director, but perhaps someone else, especially in a collaborative or collective organization - who is responsible for noticing when something feels wrong and acting to defuse it before there's a crisis...and for noticing when something feels especially right, and following up on it to help the organization develop. An organization, like an ecosystem, must be understood and nurtured as a whole if its parts are to remain healthy.

In Summary

For a management plan - and the organization it sustains - to work properly, its elements have to be carried out every day. It helps to develop systems for day-to-day maintenance, and to make clear who's responsible for what. The general areas that need attention if the organization is to run smoothly include:

  • The actual work of the organization
  • Finances
  • Personnel matters
  • Board maintenance
  • Community relations
  • Logistics
  • The spirit of the organization

In order to keep all this together, it's important that someone - usually the director - have an overview of the organization as a whole, and be able to recognize and act to address both potential trouble and potential opportunity. Attending to the big picture in this way is perhaps the most important daily management task of all.

Online Resources

The Center for Nonprofit Management: consultants on management issues (they charge fees).

The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute: links, readings, information, Fellowships, etc. in nonprofit management.

A free management library from the Management Assistance Center for Nonprofits - 69 basic topics, broken down into 675 more specific subtopics. A wealth of information, of varying depth.

National Center for Charitable Statistics is a great links page from the Urban Institute.

Nonprofit Charitable Organizations provides links to many nonprofit topics, including management and Boards.

The Nonprofit Expert provides articles, ideas, and links to management topics, including an on-line Compendium of Federal and State Regulations for US Nonprofit Organizations.

The Nonprofit Genie home page: links and information of all kinds for nonprofits. An extremely useful site.

Nonprofit Nuts and Bolts, a magazine offering practical tips for nonprofits.

Nonprofit Support Center provides leadership, consulting and training to help nonprofits do their work better.

"Open House" by Mark Henricks, from Entrepreneur, May, 1995. An article about a technique that could be useful in daily management.