Diversifying Burdens

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Minnesota Local History Blog.

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The Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services helps Minnesotans preserve and share their history. This blog is a resource of best practices on the wide variety of museum, preservation, conservation, funding, and non-profit management topics. We’re here to help.

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Diversifying Burdens

By: grabitsdm | July 7, 2010
Many local historical organizations are all-volunteer, have boards of a half dozen to perhaps fifteen members, memberships a few more than who serves on the board, total budgets (if they even create a budget) of about $12,000 per year, and offer a solid variety of programs. For organizations like these and countless others, some allege that 90 percent of the work is often done by 10 percent of the people involved. Attend nearly any church and one hears remarkably similar statistics. However, that statement is often not exactly true, either. Many times most of the responsibility falls on the board chair.

Overloading one person with so much responsibility has its pros and cons. One the good side, information about what the organization does is very centralized, the public knows who to call, and not too many people have to share the burden. The cons are practically legion: burnout, exhaustion, decline in health, secretiveness can develop, things get missed for want of a second pair of eyes, no one wants to run or even be groomed to succeed the incumbent, anyone elected to chair always dies in office (President for Life), and more.

For organizations that have concentrated responsibility in just one person, how would you go about diversifying responsibilities? Is this even desirable?