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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.

~ February 2004 ~ Topic

Stages in Organizational Development: The Third Stage: The Adolescent

We have been comparing the stages in organizational growth to human growth. This month we will talk about the third of five stages: the adolescent.

Anyone who knows or has an adolescent in the family knows that they can be alternately charming and frustrating. Knowing how much freedom and independence to allow tries the wits and patience of parents.

Adolescents seem to believe, or at least pretend, that they know everything that one needs to know. They frequently take risks that make the parent cringe. They seem to think they are immortal and nothing can hurt them. They are trendy, bringing into the home music, clothes and attitudes that are frequently outlandish in the eyes of the parents.

However, the parents also rejoice in the potential they perceive and trust that the adolescent will be a contributing and successful adult, perhaps one who even exceeds his/her parents in terms of accomplishment.

Let us investigate how these qualities are present in adolescent nonprofits and what strengths and weaknesses they can bring into play.

Quality Strengths Weaknesses
All knowing
  • Confidence and knowledge are important for all organizations, and the young nonprofit that has reached adolescence (5-7 years) can be proud of itself.
  • It is not possible for any organization at any stage of development to know everything it needs to know. The adolescent nonprofit may not be open to learning. Ignorance of the law, accountability and process can lead to many costly mistakes that could have been avoided. The adolescent nonprofit needs to listen to and evaluate the experiences of mature organizations as well as read materials and attend workshops and classes on nonprofit management.
Risk Taking
  • The willingness to take risks for a good cause shows an adventurous and creative spirit and can result in successes that will surprise and amaze. Those who never take a risk are probably too conservative and lack vision.
  • Risks should not be taken without careful thought. Is it in keeping with our mission? Is it legal? Would we want it to appear on the front page of the newspaper? Would the hoped for result be worth the risk?
  • Nonprofits constantly need to ask themselves, "What can we do better?" New ideas are always worth considering and evaluating.
  • Who might be alienated by the new trend (contributors, public, personnel, clients)? Will it serve our constituency better? Is its possible anticipated result worth the time it would take to implement?
  • Young organizations have a vitality that many older ones lack. There is enthusiasm, optimism and hope.
  • Adolescent organizations need to be vital and enthusiastic and at the same time take advantage of the knowledge of others, seeking out mentors with experience who share their desire to improve the world.

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 Book Image Board Member's Guide Image" Leading Volunteers Book Image Board Member's Guide Image Passionate Volunteerism Book Image Passionate Volunteerism Image

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Other good sources for information on 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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