Who Holds You Accountable?

| by Shannon Williams

Every Tuesday at 7 a.m. I meet with a group of six women. There are a lot of words I could use to describe these amazing women—role models, sisters, friends, confidants. But the word that I want to focus on today is accountability. I am accountable to these women to uphold the standards we have established together. And this accountability spans the time when we are in each other’s presence and when we are not. There is a bond, a trust, a loyalty that extends from this group that helps me stay focused on the things that are most important in my life. I am truly thankful that these women help hold me accountable.

Every non-profit also has people that hold it accountable. A non-profit’s accountability group is its stakeholders—the people who support it with their time and resources (both human and financial). Whether you are a staff member, a board member, or a program volunteer, the stakeholders of your non-profit expect you to be a good steward of your resources and to deliver the mission you have agreed upon for your organization. It is pretty simple, and yet it can be easy to forget to whom we are accountable.

Sometimes explosive program growth, unexpected funding, or even community recognition causes a non-profit to lose sight of its accountability group. It can be tempting to have that invincible feeling—an arrogance—an “I know best” mentality. But the strongest organizations stay tightly connected to their accountability groups in the goods times and challenging times.

A great example is a name that will be familiar to those among our Triangle network—Doug McMillan, CEO of the YMCA of the Triangle. Doug has served as CEO for more than two decades. During his tenure the operating budget of the Y exploded from around $5 million to more than $65 million. Fundraising grew from next to nothing to more than $4 million annually and the list goes on. Through it all, Doug and his team have stayed well-connected to the Y’s accountability group. Yes, they survey members, engage lots of community leaders in their strategic planning process, and build strong relationship with donors through regular communications. But the thing that stands out to me is the way that Doug routinely reaches out to current and former Y leaders just to bounce an idea off of them, to gauge their opinion on an issue, to keep him accountable to his stakeholders and his community.

The Y has had unprecedented impact and success in the Triangle. It would be easy for Doug to lose sight of his accountability group, but instead he has come to rely on that group more and more throughout his tenure in the same way that I have grown closer and closer to my Tuesday morning group. No matter what we accomplish as organizations or individuals we all need someone to help us stay focused on the most important things.

Who helps keep you and your organization accountable? Join our conversation.

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