Running a Non-Profit Board or Running a Band – 5 Common Lessons

I’m a strong believer in the concept that learning is trenscendent – the concept that every bit of education can be applied in other, sometimes seemingly unrelated endeavors.

This week I attended “Camp NSA” for incoming chapter presidents of the National Speakers Association, a non-profit association for those in the professional speaking business. Here are a few of the common themes of the training and the lessons that can be applied to music:

1. Facilitation
The President of a chapter facilitates a board of directors. A facilitator, not a CEO. If coordinating the efforts of a band, regardless of whether or not you’re the self-appointed leader, your job is to create an environment where the talents of others come forward and shine. The singer might get the spotlight most often, but everyone gets a chance to demonstrate their expertise and get appreciation from the audience.

2. Conflict Resolution
In any group or organization, there are going to be conflicts that must be resolved. Avoid “triangulation,” where discussions are taking place behind the backs of members of the group. In bands there are egos and conflicts. Get agreement up front that encourages healthy debate among members, but remain unified once a decision is reached.

3. Make it a Positive Experience
Recruiting board members becomes increasingly difficult if the experiences of past board members have not been particularly positive, and the same is true of a band. Recognize members for their contributions, and ensure that they are enjoying the experience. Board members are often volunteer positions, and musicians don’t always make enough money for that to be the primary motivation for being in the band.

4. Learn From Experience
In a non-profit, boards should document past successes and failures for the benefits of future boards, otherwise you end up reinventing the wheel over and over again. Bands should take time to reflect on great gigs, songs, live shows, and merchandise to examine them so that they can replicate successes.

5. When kicking around ideas, be open-minded
Let new ideas come forward freely. Modify, offer suggestions, enhance, redefine, say “Let’s try this,” but don’t judge. Same for music. Let the band play around with new musical ideas so that several approaches have been tried. A new bass line or drum beat might cause you to look at a song from a completely different perspective.

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