Tag: Board Members

11 Qualities of a Good Chairman/Chairwoman

A good chairman/chairwoman can steer a masjid board and the entire masjid in a direction in a positive direction and provide much needed stability and space for growth for a masjid and the masjid board. Here are a few good qualities a masjid chairman/chairwoman should have to be effective in leading a community.

1) Knowing His/Her Role

A good chairman knows his/her role on a masjid board. This includes knowing when and when not to exert his/her influence or authority and when and when not to troubleshoot problems. The worst chairmen/chairwomen either are too involved and micromanage or are too hands-off in their approach to managing a board and a community. There has to be a balance between the two extremes for a chairman/chairwoman to be effective.

2) Be a Source of Inspiration & An Example

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

John Quincy Adams

As a chairman/chairwoman of a board and the community  community members look to them for guidance and solving the problems facing the community. As a chairman/chairwoman they need set a good example for the board and the community. This means showing up on time to meetings, delivering on promises and deliverables and ensuring they are living up to professional and Islamic morals, ethics and values in all of their actions and interactions with both board members and the community.  As a part of a chairman/chairwoman’s inspirational leadership they should create a culture and an environment where both board members and community members feel inspired to do more and work harder for the community.

3) Showing Initiative, Innovation & Leadership

This quality is pretty obvious, but sometimes ineffective chairmen/chairwomen simply don’t take initiative or exhibit leadership in times of confusion or disarray on a masjid board or masjid operations. A hands-off approach to managing a board can cause unnecessary chaos and confusion. The buck needs to stop somewhere and a good leader in times of confusion is able to navigate a board and a community out of the storm, stabilize situations and bring order in times of confusion, conflict and disarray.

In terms of showing initiative, chairmen/chairwomen need to set a good example by putting in work on the ground and also spearheading and empowering new initiatives/projects/programs to help the masjid board and the community grow positively. A good chairman/chairwoman should be innovative and not afraid of going against the grain when it comes to coming up with better and more efficient ways to run and operate a masjid. Too many chairmen/chairwomen stick to the status quo and are not bold enough to make drastic and much-needed changes for a masjid and its community to grow. Innovation is a much needed skill in chairmen/chairwomen. Each and every masjid will need its own unique solutions to its problems/challenges.

4) Keeping Board Members Accountable

A good chairman/chairwoman holds their board members accountable and to a high standard of professionalism and Islamic standard of ethics, morals and values. This means starting meetings on time and ending them on time. Ensuring board members are following through on assigned tasks and keeping them accountable for tasks/projects/assignments not followed through on. A masjid board with a lack of accountability internally makes it much weaker and extremely inefficient. A good chairman/chairwoman will ensure that all board members (including themselves) are held accountable for any missed assignments/tasks or even behavioral issues/miscues that impact the board dynamics or community.

5) Ensuring Deadlines Are Met (on Anything)

A good chairman/chairwoman will ensure that deadlines are met on all tasks and projects as much as possible. This may include ensuring board members are following through on assigned tasks, contractors are meeting their agreements/contracts, bills are paid on time, and ensuring that all promises to the community in terms of delivering on construction, hiring of staff, and/or changes to masjid operations are actually met and communicated to the community effectively.

6) Providing Direction

A good chairman/chairwoman would be able to provide direction to his/her board and community. One of the worst things for a chairman to do is to simply stick to the status quo of what previous chairmen/chairwomen have set in place. There is always room for improvement in operations and masjid board efficiency. A weak chairman/chairwoman will not provide direction and stagnate the growth of a masjid and its community. A good chairman/chairwoman will provide direction and also communicate that direction not just to his/her board members but the community as well.

7) Delegating Authority, Not Tasks

A good chairman/chairwoman delegates authority, not tasks. This means empowering your board members to make decisions based on their expertise and taking ownership over key focus areas and tasks. When a chairman/chairwoman empowers his/her board members with authority then tasks and assignments get accomplished in a much more organized and efficent manner. Micromanaging board members is by far the worst and least sustainable methods of running a board. Empowerment of board members creates leaders and allows boards to function much more effectively.

8) Keeping A Board Focused & On Track

It’s inevitable for a board to have diverse opinions and points of view and personalities, but a good chairman/chairwoman is able to create a balanced board that is able to avoid clashes, roadblocks and gridlock when it comes to decision-making. As a part of keeping a board focused and on track a good chairman/chairwoman would be able to resolve conflicts and clashes on views in a productive and amicable manner. The buck needs to stop somewhere and a chairman/chairwoman has to act as an arbitrator, referee or judge in order to keep a board running smoothly.

9) Ability to Build a Team

A good chairman/chairwoman is one who is able to build an environment and a feeling of team spirit on a board.  When a board fully feels like they have to have each others’ backs and be supportive of each other real change happens. When trust, respect and mutual love, compassion and empathy is built at a board level board members become far more effective in terms of performing at a higher level, having a higher morale, and the comfortability to provide innovative and unique ideas to improve the board and the community as a whole. A good chairman/chairwoman would be able to create this environment and team spirit for a board. This means understanding how to balance different personalities, temperaments, views and opinions in an amicable and productive manner while encouraging healthy dialogue, discussion and exchanges of ideas.

10) Manage Multiple Projects & Tasks

A chairman/chairwoman should be able to keep organized and manage multiple tasks. There are several project management tools available online to help keep one organized and on track. Investing in technology can save a masjid thousands of dollars and also take a masjid’s operations and the community to the next level far more quickly.

11) Be Accessible to the Community

Some chairmen/chairwomen are virtually impossible to contact or even get time to talk to. The lack of accessibility knowingly or unknowingly creates and fosters a feeling of mistrust between the community and the masjid board in general. When community members feel they can’t even get their voices heard by the community leader then their trust and confidence in the masjid board plummets. This is not to say that the chairman/chairwoman needs to entertain every request or concern, but be able to triage or delegate requests and/or concerns to the appropriate parties or resources within a masjid organizational structure.

 

Masjid Board Accountability, Transparency & Oversight

A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity

– Dalai Lama

Unfortunately many masjid boards operate with little to no accountability, transparency or oversight. This often festers community members’ mistrust and a lack of confidence in the masjid board. Combine this with the lack of transparency and you have a recipe for disaster. Mechanisms must be in place in the masjid constitution or by-laws to ensure that masjid boards are held accountable and have a level of transparency to all community members (not just a few or high-income donors). This includes having quarterly townhall meetings and emergency townhall meetings with the community in the case of special cases or emergencies, the publication of quarterly and annual financial and operational reports, and the ability for community members to voice their concerns and be heard by masjid board members.

Masjid board members who operate in the dark with little to no accountability, transparency and oversight while not listening to the demands, feedback, ideas and complaints essentially destroys a community. Masjid board members not entertaining and taking community members’ concerns and feedback seriously is a blatant abuse of power and authority. Masjid board members are elected to serve all Muslims who attend the masjid, not just a handful of high-income donors or just themselves. This type of mindset in some masjid boards reeks of arrogance and self-interest and is by far one of the biggest factors which holds back most masjids from progressing forward and growing a community.

We typically find that the destruction and division of most communities is due to the arrogance and egos of some masjid boards and their board members. The lack of Islamic ethics, morals and values in masjid boards and their operations is one of the core problems which plagues most masjids. Most community members who are unmosqued typically point to the masjid board and/or an instance where they felt unwelcome or unheard by a community member, masjid board member or staff. If masjid leadership (masjid boards) are making community members feel unwelcome and unheard then we most certainly need to hold our board members accountable for their actions. Masjid boards need to be held accountable and be reminded that they serve the community not the special interests of a few or even their own self-interests. However, this can only change internally from within with a board that is mature enough to realize its mistakes and weaknesses if not pressure must be applied from the community to ensure a positive change is made in ensuring accountability, transparency and oversight become a core part of masjid operations in masjid leadership.

If you’re a community member who has zero clue about how your masjid operates ask for a copy of your masjid’s constitution and by-laws. Call for a meeting with your board to ask them about how they operate and demand that a level of transparency, accountability and oversight is set in place to ensure there is no abuse of power or authority or breach of trust with the community. The only way we can ensure our masjids achieve professionalism is if we all work together to build our masjids and our communities. Just as is with any problem the first step is to recognize it’s there.

8 Skills Board Members Need to Lead a Community

 

Empty Conference Room — Image by © Bill Varie/Corbis

Many times community members may have good intentions when they run for or join a masjid board. However, becoming a board member isn’t as simple as it looks. Becoming a board member is a large and extremely important responsibility. The entire community is trusting you to make the best decisions for the betterment of the community. Unfortunately, 9 times out of 10 community members who join masjid boards lack the skills and experience needed to lead a community. Not everyone with good intentions is necessarily a good leader.

Now this isn’t to speak despairingly about masjid board members or place undue blame on them or expect them to know everything it takes to be a board member prior to joining a masjid board. However, masjid board members need to understand that they need to be trained and gain essential skills in order lead a community. The following skills need to be a part of any on-boarding for any masjid board member:

1) Leadership

The most important skill needed is to understand how to be a leader. Many community members when they get elected to the board immediately feel a sense of authority and power. Unfortunately, for many being on a masjid board can be a spiritual test of their egos. Some succeed in their test and others fail. Thus, it becomes important to learn leadership skills and what it means to truly be a leader and know what it means to lead an entire community based on your decisions.

A leadership training should be required for all masjid board members as they transition on to the board.

2) Management

The second most important skill that masjid board members need to have is how to manage. This means management 101. Masjid board members need to understand and learn how to manage a board, a masjid facility, and a community. What does it mean to be a board member in a position of authority? How do you manage staff? How do you manage board meetings? How do you delegate tasks in a board? How do you effectively get the job done and tasks done in a timely and efficient manner?

3) Team Building

A masjid board will most likely have a diverse (hopefully) group of individuals from various diverse backgrounds. This can and will be an asset to the board if managed properly. However, in order to make this an asset rather than a hinderance it’s important to learn how to work together as a team. It’s important to learn to work together as a team rather than individuals with separate agendas. There should never be a feeling in the board of me vs. you or me vs. everyone. This is toxic and will create unnecessary tension and problems down the road.

Learning team building skills can assist in improving communication, keeping people’s intentions pure, improving the ability of the board to make decisions faster and more effectively, and just overall operate at a higher level to serve the community in a more professional and efficient manner.

4) Project Management

The fourth most important skill to learn or acquire for board members it project management. This means learning how to effectively manage resources and people to get a particular task or job done. Several times masjid projects get delayed due mismanagement of time, resources and people. Miscommunication can occur, misallocation of resources, and other mistakes can hinder a project or task from getting done in a timely and efficient manner. Having a strong understanding of project management can help a masjid board move from mediocre to excellent.

5) Strategic Planning

One of the biggest mistakes masjids boards make is they typically run or operate a masjid the same way their predecessors ran the masjid due to the fear of shaking up the status quo and also not having the knowledge or expertise how to change the status quo. This unfortunately impacts the masjid operations negatively. This alone stops masjids from progressing forward and moving forward. Masjid boards need to invest in learning how to strategically plan for the future of their masjids and communities. Simply keeping the status quo because it’s safe and easier to manage is not a long term or sustainable strategy.

6) Conflict Resolution

Another major factor in hindering the progress of a masjid is the inability to resolve problems and disagreements in an Islamic, ethical, constructive and amicable manner. Conflicts are inevitable in any relationship, family or organization. The key is how to resolve those conflicts in an amicable manner. Too many times we’ve seen entire communities torn apart based on the egos of a handful of individuals. It is critical masjid board members learn conflict resolution skills not just to resolve conflict internally, but also learn how to resolve conflict between community members and the board, between community members and other community members, and between the masjid and external institutions or organizations.

7) Cultural and Community Sensitivity

It’s important in today’s times to truly understand the diversity of our community. We are blessed to have a diverse community with individuals from virtually every ethnic and racial background and also are diverse in our age demographics and professions as well. To truly become effective board members we need to understand our communities and the backgrounds that exist in our community. Typically what happens is masjid boards tend to be one ethnicity or race and cater to the needs of their community while neglecting the needs of others. This not only is a blatant abuse of power and authority but not something sustainable at all and will destroy the community long-term.

Masjid boards should be required to take cultural sensitivity training or have an outside party come and educate the board about the diversity of the community. A good way to get to know your community is to conduct a survey on demographics and then based on that survey seek resources to learn more about those demographics and then begin strategizing how to effectively serve those demographics in your community.

8)  Financial Planning, Budgeting & Accounting

A good masjid board will know how to create and balance a budget. However, some masjid boards lack a strong understanding of financial planning, budgeting and accounting. Understanding the basics of financial planning, budgeting and accounting can assist in making stronger, more effective and more data-driven decisions for the community. Taking a workshop or training the masjid board on the basics can do wonders for making a masjid board far more effective in decision making and improve in transparency of the financial operations of a masjid. If a masjid board knows precisely where each and every penny is being spent and allocated it allow for them to communicate that to the community and be much more transparent.

Understanding Your Community

In order to serve your community effectively it’s important to understand what your community’s demographics are. This includes knowing your community’s ages, marital statuses, family sizes, ethnicities, races, and even educational levels. If a masjid board or leadership only caters to one demographic over another it alienates and discourages other demographics from even attending. An example of this is if a masjid decides to only have Urdu halaqas for the Indian and Pakistani demographic of the community or this may include having khutbahs (sermons) only in Arabic.

Likewise if programs, classes and events are only geared towards families over youth or single un-married Muslims, new Muslims and university students then it creates an unwelcoming environment for 90% of your community. Thus, it becomes an extremely important task by the masjid board and leadership to ensure that its programs, events, classes and overall services are catering to as many demographics as possible without neglecting or alienating any particular demographic. This process won’t be a perfect one, but an intentional and strategic effort needs to be made.

One thing masjids need to avoid is having one predominant culture or ethnic group take over the way a masjid is run and what type of programs, classes and events are conducted in your masjid. Many times we may see masjids that are strictly one ethnicity or culture in the way they operate the masjid. This may for some masjids be an achille’s heal to creating a diverse, warm, welcoming and inclusive environment for Muslims of other ethnicities. Unfortunately for most masjids they lack a warm and welcoming environment when the congregants are composed of one culture or ethnicity.

While it’s ok to cater to a community’s ethnic or cultural group that may make up a majority of your community it’s important to also remind the larger ethnic/cultural group to be inclusive of other groups. Just as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) paired the Ansaar and Muhajir together we must do the same with the various diverse ethnic and cultural groups we have in our communities to encourage cooperation and appreciation or different groups in your community.

Masjid boards and leadership should create surveys to understand who their community is and tailor their programs, services and events around those demographics to truly be an effective, warm, inclusive, and professional masjid. Not only will this show that the masjid board and leadership cares about its community but will build up the community’s confidence and trust with the masjid board and leadership. It will also show that the masjid board and leadership truly cares for the well-being of the community rather than simply sticking to the normal status quo. When deliberate and strategic steps are taken to ensure all demographics are taken care of it’ll help sustain and grow your community.

Being Donor-Driven vs. Community-Driven

 

Money is essential to the operations of a masjid. This much is understandable, however when a masjid board or leadership is influenced in its decision-making by how much a donor donates then this becomes problematic. Islamically speaking donations should never have strings attached to them in the sense of influencing decision-making of masjid boards or leadership. If a donor donates specifically to a particular program or construction project that’s ok, but to influence board decisions is problematic and can hold a community back from truly growing.
If a masjid board or leadership is held hostage by high-income donors then they won’t be able to make critical decisions to help move a community forward and help make decisions that may contribute to the growth of the community and masjid. Some masjid boards and leadership may feel that if they antagonize or disagree with high-income donors that masjid operations, programs and services will cease. This is a valid fear, but again Islamically speaking trusting in Allah and His ability to provide financially for the masjid needs to be a factor in the masjid board’s decision-making.

A masjid board is not just accountable to the high-income donors, but to the community as a whole. A masjid board that makes decisions based on the opinions (and donations) of a few is not only un-Islamic, un-ethical, but also a breach of trust with the community who’s put masjid board members in charge to serve…wait for it….the community. When a masjid board makes decisions about the operations, strategy, and ideology of the masjid based on  a few high-income donors it is a breach of trust and a blatant abuse and misuse of authority and power. Masjid boards  and leadership need to understand that making decisions based on the opinions and donations of high-income donors can literally destroy communities. People will leave the masjid out of frustration for their voices not being heard nor being taken seriously. A poor Muslim should be as likely to be heard as a high-income Muslim donor. A Muslim who donates $5 to the masjid and a Muslim who donates $50,000 should be treated equally by masjid boards and leadership. To show favoritism to a Muslim based on his or her donations is un-Islamic and totally against the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Masjid boards and leadership need to break away from this model of being held hostage by a handful of high-income donors who influence masjid board decisions and operations. Continuing with this mindest and status quo will destroy communities over time and alienate many generations over time and dissuade and discourage certain demographics (ethnically, racially and financially speaking) from attending the masjid. If their voices and concerns are not be heard then why support masjid boards and leadership who don’t listen to them or respect them?

Masjid boards and leadership need to realize that this is happening, create methods and policies to avoid donor-driven decisions from being made, and commit to being community-driven in their decision making. This means making decisions based on betterment of the community, not high-income donors. Masjid boards can break the chains, influence and dependancy on high-income donors if they create a financial sustainability plan to bring in income and revenue for the masjid. However, for this to happen requires masjid boards to realize and recognize this is happening and be willing to break away and change the status quo.

Lastly, transparency is critical and can be accomplished by establishing systems and platforms in which community members can voice their opinions, suggestions, complaints and ideas. This can be in the form of town halls or panel discussions with the board.