Does your homeschool leader have founders syndrome?

group_leader_400_clr_11526

Does your homeschoool organization suffer from founders syndrome?

I’ve talked to dozens of homeschool group members who have dominate leaders and they recognize founders syndrome when I describe it.

How-matters.org gives the symptoms of founder’s syndrome:

  • The founder is at the center of all decision-making. Decisions are made quickly, with little input from others. No one really seems to know what’s going on.
  • Planning is not done collectively and any ideas that do not come from the founder usually don’t go very far. People can even become afraid of the founder.
  • The board is recruited by the founder, rather than by the board itself. Often they are friends of the founder, who may have been there from the beginning.
  • The board’s role is to “support” the founder, rather than to lead the organization. They are often a rubber stamp board, having little understanding of the work the organization does.
  • Board and staff members are unable to answer basic questions about the organization, such as the size of the budget, the major funding sources, the extent of the programs, without checking first with the founder.
  • A casual observer would hear a lot of “I, me, my” in conversation. “My staff…” “My organization…” “My vision…” It would also not be unusual to hear the words, “Because that is how we have always done it.”
  • There is resistance to any changes that will result in a (perceived or actual) loss of control. There can be a resistance to new staff or outsiders because they are perceived as a threat. There is a (perceived or actual) fear that the organization will become “something we no longer recognize.”

 Some may ask, “So what’s wrong with that?” And the answer is simple: If the founder is hit by a truck tomorrow, the team or organization is at risk of not being able to continue its programs. All the good work people have done over the years is in danger of ending.

 Sound familiar to you?

Your homeschool leader is a control-freak. She suffers from founders syndrome.  It’s time to recognize it and start dealing with it for the health of your homeschool group.

Carol Topp, CPA

Should my homeschool nonprofit corporation have members?

voting_line_ballot_box_400_clr_9468

Carol,

I’m filling out the paperwork for my homeschool co-op to be a nonprofit corporation in my state. They ask “Does your organization have members?” We have families that pay for co-op classes and we call them members. Is this what the form is asking?

Joann in IN

Joann,

The state is asking about members of your corporation, not what you call members who participate in your homeschool co-op classes.

Here’s a helpful explanation from Nolo.com

Although a nonprofit corporation can choose to have members who have voting rights, many nonprofit corporations decide not to adopt a membership structure and, in the interests of efficiency, leave the decision making up to the directors. If a nonprofit does opt for a membership structure, the members participate in major corporate decisions. Specifically, the members have the exclusive right to elect directors, amend articles and bylaws, and vote on a merger or dissolution of the corporation.

I have found that most homeschool co-ops are run by a board and do not have members participate in decision making or vote on anything.

One homeschool group incorrectly checked the box on their nonprofit corporation application stating they had members. Later, they needed to amend their Articles of Incorporation  when applying for 501c3 tax exempt status with the IRS. This meant they had to gather the members together for a vote to amend the Articles. This was not easy because co-op classes had ended for the summer and the members no longer gathered together. It also involved explaining complicated IRS language to a group of people who didn’t really care, gathering ballots for votes, etc.

So be careful about what you are agreeing to when you check the box stating your nonprofit homeschool corporation has members.

Carol Topp, CPA

 

Starting a nonprofit homeschool group correctly! Dollars and Sense Show # 5

DollarsSenseShow5_320pxSq

In this episode of the  Dollars and Sense Show host Carol Topp discusses

Starting a nonprofit homeschool group correctly

In this episode,  Carol  discusses how to start a nonprofit homeschool group. She shares her knowledge as the Homeschool CPA on important steps to take when organizing a group such as having a board and a clear mission. She’ll also share tips on how to legally operate your homeschool group.

Listen to the show here

Three steps to launching (or running) a successful homeschool organization:

1. Board: Chose a group of leaders so no one carries the burden of leading alone.

2. Bylaws: Write up bylaws to structure your group. Decide the Who, What, Where, How often and How much issues. In the bylaws mention its purpose (what), its members (who) and its leaders. The Where, how often and how much change frequently and do not belong in the bylaws.

Sample bylaws here

3. Budget: Planning with numbers. Estimate your income and your expenses. Plan a small surplus for emergencies.

Cover Money Mgmt HS Org

Carol’s new book, Money Management in a Homeschool Organization will help your treasurer create a budget and stick to it!

 

On the show Carol mentioned:

Tune in for the next Dollars and Sense show on December 19, 2013 when Carol will discuss tax exemption and how to get it for your homeschool group.

 

Homeschool group elections and spouses on the team

stick_figures_team_puzzle_400_clr_7003

The current leadership (or our homeschool group) as well as those being added right now are hand picked and invited to be on the team.  In the future do we need to hold elections? Should the invitation to the leadership team be open to the husbands of the ladies on the team?

Angela

 

I have been on the board of several nonprofits that do not hold elections for the board and it can work well. Sometimes it is difficult to get the membership together to hold a vote or sometimes an election turns into a competitive popularity contest.

A middle ground is to ask for nominations (people can nominate themselves) and then the board (or a sub committee of the board) chooses new members based on talents, skills and the board’s needs.

I belonged to a nonprofit board that had advisers and the legal adviser was the husband of the director.  He was asked to be an adviser because of his experience as a lawyer and his passion for our mission, not just because he was married to the director.  Hopefully all the invited advisers will be judicious in offering their opinions and not try to overtake the meeting or the decisions being made.

Carol Topp, CPA

Does permanent leadership work in a homeschool group?

 

Does there  need to be a limit to how many times that person can serve on a homeschool group’s board, if she is still willing and the members still want her leading?

Has anyone had permanent leadership in a homeschool group and seen it work?

 

I have concern about a director or chair staying too long because it can create founder’s syndrome (“we always do it her way because she’s done it for so long”).  But I have seen groups run successfully with the same leaders for 10+years. But,  I would be concerned about burn out for the leader.

I’m less worried about a secretary or other members staying on indefinitely.

I do not think a treasurer should serve more than 3-5 years, even if she is doing a good job and wished to continue serving.  Too many mistakes, or even embezzlement, can occur if a treasurer is not changed frequently.  A treasurer unwilling to step down is a red flag signaling misappropriation of funds.
The pope is appointed for life, but Pope Benedict just resigned. He’s just too tired and old (at 85 years) to continue to do his job. It’s the first time on 600 years a pope has resigned!

In the USA, only the supreme court judges are appointed for life and it is debatable as to whether that system works!

Your homeschool group is not the supreme court nor the papacy, so I would not recommend permanent leadership for a board member.

Carol Topp, CPA

Board turnover may mean the purpose of the homeschool group could change

I am concerned that a regular turn over of the leadership of our homeschool group could result in the vision and purpose of the group changing year to year.

 

A shift away from your original vision and purpose is always a concern, so make sure you never turnover the entire board in a year or do not turn over more than half the board at once.

Also, do some training for new board members. Give them the bylaws and mission statement. Allow them to read minutes from prior board meetings. That way they will understand the purpose and mission of your group.

Additionally,  keep the mission in front of everyone’s eyes at every board meeting. Put it on a poster.  Read it out loud if you have to.

Regular meeting are a good way to remind members of the purpose of your group.

Sad but true story: One homeschool group only held board meetings when there was a crisis (and then those meetings lasted 3-4 hours!). The founder did very little to reinforce the mission and purpose of the group. She assumed everyone on  the board thought like she did.

Imagine her surprise when a board member proposed an idea that was in complete disagreement with the founder’s vision!  The meeting was a horrible experience and ended in the board member resigning. She went on to form a competing homeschool group. It bread ill-will in our homeschool community for years.

I hope that helps,

 

Carol Topp, CPA

Lessons from a goose on leadership

Geese

Who knew that geese could tell us so much about leadership?

Geese fly in a V formation to create uplift. They fly 71% farther when flying together than if they flew alone.
Application for homeschool leaders: Don’t run your group alone. Gather other people to help you and you’ll go farther and avoid burnout.

When the lead bird gets tired, he drops out of the head spot and flies in the back to recover and take advantage of the lift from the other birds.
Application for homeschool leaders: Rotate leadership. Bring in fresh, new people. Set term limits for board members.

Geese honk to offer encouragement to each other, sort of an “Atta boy!” or “You can do it! Keep going!” to each other and their leader.
Application for homeschool leaders: Encourage your leaders. Offer appreciation gifts and thank you cards.

Thanks to :

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/apjinternational/apj-s/2007/4tri07/popeeng.htm

Carol Topp, CPA

The benefits of a board to avoid burn out

My friends Kristen & Denise at Homeschool Group Leader have been running an interview they did with me as a blog series on leader burn out.

meeting

This session is about how a team of people or a board can help leaders avoid burnout
Here’s part of the interview:
Having a board means you are sharing the responsibility for that group. You’re sharing the decision-making. Who wants to make all these decisions themselves about what classes will be held or where they’re going to find a meeting place or do we need insurance or a million other questions?

But the most important thing a board does is to help you avoid burning out, because you’re sharing that load. And also, having a board means that you can replace yourself–that no one person is doing it all–if she is, then she is making herself too difficult to replace.

There are lots of times when a leader may have to step down. Maybe because she is burned out, but also it could be that her family moves out of town. We’ve had that happen. Or maybe she becomes ill or someone in the house becomes ill, and she has to step down from her responsibilities for a while. Every group out there and every leader out there ought to be saying, “If one of us had to leave, could we keep going?” Who could step in—always have that in the back of your mind.

The next session is on how a budget can help avoid burnout:
Carol Topp, CPA

What are the legal responsibilities of homeschool leaders?

legal-books-gavel-scale

Carol,

We are hesitant about linking personal Social Security Numbers to the group EIN. What legal ramifications does putting personal SSN info on the group form have for that individual?

Tasha

Tasha,

The IRS form SS-4 Application for Employer Identification Number asks for the name of a responsible party and either a SSN, ITIN (tax ID for aliens) or EIN (for businesses). You asked what are the legal ramifications of putting a name and SSN on the EIN application for a nonprofit organization.

The answer lies in the responsibility of leadership. All leaders, officers or directors of a nonprofit has some responsibilities. Each board member has a fiduciary (i.e. legal) duty of care and loyalty to manage the organization and its funds within the purpose/mission of the organization and not for private gain or benefit. The board’s job is to govern the organization, be responsible for the management of funds, and be responsible for its programs. Those are the “legal ramifications” of leadership.

Specifically, the duty of care includes:

  • Be aware of the nonprofit’s mission, plans and policies
  • Be sure that all activities are in accordance with the mission, plans and policies
  • Fully participate in Board meetings, deliberations and decisions.
  • Read, evaluate and ensure the accuracy of all reports, including minutes and financial statements.
  • Ensure the organization has sufficient people, funding and other assets to meet its purpose.

The duty of loyalty includes clearly making a reasonable and good-faith effort, when acting as a Board member, to:

  • Always be thinking about, and focusing on, the priorities of the nonprofit, and not that of yourself or another organization.
  • Share ideas, opinions and advice to forward the progress of the nonprofit.
  • Represent the nonprofit in a favorable light.

These definitions and examples come from an excellent article on board responsibilities found at Managementhelp.org, a great website with lots of articles on running a nonprofit.

http://managementhelp.org/misc/Fiduciary-Responsibilities-of-NP-Board.pdf

Most of these fiduciary (legal) responsibilities are not too heavy for any loyal board member. I think they are very reasonable. It might be a good idea to share them with new and old board members.

So next time someone asks, “What are my responsibilities as a board member?” or “What are the legal ramifications of putting my name on an IRS form?” you have an answer to give.

Carol Topp, CPA

Should you compensate board members?

MeetingRoom2

I know that the board members of a homeschool groups are hard-working people.  They not only homeschool their own children, but they organize support groups and co-ops to help other homeschool families.  Sometimes a homeschool group would like to “reward” these generous individuals.

Is it OK to compensate your board members?

A homeschool co-op in the Midwest contacted me recently to apply for 501c3 tax exempt status.  The Treasurer told me that her co-op had been paying their leaders anywhere from $200-$1,200 a year for their service on the board.  I discussed why paying board members was not a typical practice.  Here is some of what we discussed:

  • Payments to board members can create a conflict of interest. Does the loyalty of the leader lie in herself or in the best interests of the group?
  • Paying board members can call into question the duty of loyalty of the board member.  Is she acting in the best interest of the group rather than a personal, financial interest?
  • Payment could compromise the leader’s duty of care. A leader should act in good faith, with the care an ordinary, prudent person would exercise and with the best interest of the group in mind.
  • Payments on nonprofit boards is not a typical practice.  Charities do not usually compensate their board members. Their funds usually go back into the program. Board members serve because they have a passion for the mission and a concern for the members.
  • Board payments can undermine the volunteer spirit of other members. Why should a member volunteer her time when others are paid for their efforts?
  • Paying a board member can cause dissension and a sense of injustice or imbalance in the group.
  • In this particular case the payments did not have member approval. The board voted themselves compensation, but never put the idea to a member vote. This could be considered inurement  which is forbidden for 501(c)(3) tax exempt organizations and could put the organizations tax exempt status at risk.
  • Paying board members involves correctly classifying them as employees or independent contractors. The classification is a matter of IRS law, not your choice.

This group has wisely decided to stop payments to board members. I think the group will be better served by an all-volunteer board and healthier in the long run.

payingworkerscoveroutlinedYou can pay board members, but the income is taxable income. My book Paying Workers in a Homeschool Organization explains the correct way to pay board members as employees or independent contractors and alternative tax-free ways to thank your hard-working board members.

Carol Topp, CPA

Save