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VolunteerToday.com ~~ The Electronic Gazette for Volunteerism


They are volunteers, too!
Look here for infomation and the latest techniques to develop your board or committee. The purpose is to help those who work or serve on nonprofit boards of directors or committees.

~ April 2004 ~ Topic

Stages in Organizational Development: The Fifth Stage: Old Age

We have a little trouble in American society defining "old age." It seems from what we read and hear that it must be a long period of the lifespan encompassing the years from 55 – 100!

We all know older people (meaning someone at least ten years older than us) who are wise, experienced, involved and have a positive attitude that inspires others. And we also know some older people (and not so older) who complain a lot, particularly about how the world has changed and how they wish it were "the way it used to be."

What are the qualities of older organizations, and what are their strengths and/or weaknesses?

  • They have been through a lot and their experiences have taught them to handle many difficult situations.
  • They may think they know all the answers and forget that when individuals and organizations think they know everything, they are bound to encounter something they never dreamed of and don’t know how to handle. This can bring a new and unexpected sense of humility in the face of reality.
Tradition based
  • Tradition that is based on core principles and organizational effectiveness is a wonderful accomplishment and is probably the reason the organization has reached its elder state.
  • Tradition, however, is not something to be followed mindlessly if it is a barrier to meeting the needs the organization should be meeting today. "That’s the way we’ve always done it," is a dangerous phrase.
  • The older organization usually has a big book of policies, elegant organizational charts and lots of written job description.
  • However, sometimes people forget to look at them, follow or evaluate them. They may never be revised in terms of changing circumstances or they may create a nonproductive web of bureaucracy.
  • They are well known, raise money (maybe not enough, but who raises "enough?"). They have respected people on their board.
  • All agencies can lose respect when they are responsible for lapses in ethics. All organizations need to remember they have a public trust and need to take it seriously. Established agencies must watch not to be smug about their public persona.

Jeanne Bradner can be reached at Jeannebrad@aol.com.

See our online bookstore for Jeanne Bradner's book on boards: The Board Member’s Guide: A Beneficial Bestiary, Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today and Passionate Volunteerism.
Board Member's Guide Image"Board Member's Guide Image Passionate Volunteerism Image

Other good sources for information on nonprofits, boards and committees:

Jeanne H. Bradner
Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, Passionate Volunteerism, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum.

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