Tag: Community

The Importance of Strategic Planning

In any journey we need a GPS, directions and/or a map to reach our destination. Likewise, masjids need strategic plans.

What is a strategic plan?

A strategic plan is a plan that may be 3,5 or a 10 year plan that lays a roadmap for how a masjid intends to grow. A strategic plan outlines everything from the expansion of a masjid, the growth of staff, and the overall objectives/goals of a masjid as a whole Having this information in place allows for masjid boards and leadership to make strategic and intentional decisions to move the masjid growth in a certain direction.

Unfortunately, most majids either don’t have a strategic plan and if they do they aren’t adhering to it as closely as they should. A strategic plan can help guide masjid board decisions in terms of how to use funds effectively and how to make decisions that help in meeting the strategic plan goals. In order to create a strategic plan it is often better to get a professional strategic planner to conduct an intensive strategic planning session to guide masjid boards through the process and help them layout a solid roadmap that meets the needs, objectives and goals of the community.

Having a strategic plan to share with community members also helps in boosting confidence in the masjid board and leadership while providing transparency in the direction the masjid board is taking the community. Strategic plans can also be altered based on new developments, but the general direction should be followed strictly with each masjid board that serves the community. Deviating too much from a strategic plan renders it useless and ineffective.

A great place to start getting a strategic plan for your masjid is the Whitestone Foundation.

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.

The Importance of Masjid Board Diversity

Masjid boards commonly (knowingly or unknowingly) are filled with board members of the same ethnic or racial background and typically have the same age board members. More often than not some also lack female representation. Masjid boards with a lack of diversity typically have the most trouble or problems relating to the needs of their community and building trust with the communities and masjids they serve.

Masjid board diversity in both age, ethnicity and gender is extremely important to ensure that all demographics in the community are being served. When either an ethnic or age gap between the board and a community occurs services, programs, and events typically miss out on significant demographics of the community. Typically what happens when a board has one ethnic or cultural group on it is that they only serve their ethnic/cultural group in terms of programs, events and services. This is not to say that a dominant culture or ethnic group at a masjid is a bad thing. A diverse masjid board has a much better pulse of the needs of the community than a masjid board that is dominated by one ethnic or cultural group. Many of our masjids are 2nd or 3rd generation Muslims who if not given a space, voice or opportunity at the masjid will eventually stop attending the masjid altogether.

Thus, a masjid board should work to reflect the diversity within its community and focus on having diversity in age, gender, culture, and ethnicity on the board.  To ensure this actually happens masjid boards should write this rule into the constitution and by-laws of the masjid. The Muslim American community is by far one of the most diverse in the US and it becomes incumbent upon masjids to ensure their masjid boards reflect the change in our demographics in our communities. If we don’t we risk losing out on building masjids and building communities that serve the needs of all demographics.

Understanding the Role of the Board in a Masjid

A masjid board typically at any given masjid is heavily involved in operations and the day-to-day activities of a masjid. However, this model is simply not sustainable. The combination of limited board terms and high turnover and the lack of handover from one board to another hinders the growth of a masjid. Here are a couple tips for masjid boards to understand their roles and responsibilities.

Governance vs. Working Board

While in the initial stages a masjid may need a board that is more hands-on the masjid board typically after at a minimum of 5 years transition to a governance board. A governance board essentially makes major policy and strategic decisions for the community opposed to a working board which manages day-to-day operations, activities and programs.

Strategic Decision-Making & Avoiding Micromanagement

Staff/employees should be empowered to make the day-to-day decisions and take care of daily operations. Micromanagement of staff/employees can render not just a masjid board ineffective, but hinder the entire masjid operations and growth. Masjid boards that are still in the working board model after 5 years is problematic and shows a lack of growth of the masjid operations and organizational structure. Masjid boards need to focus more on the high-level strategic decisions and major decisions for the masjid and community.

Internal Roles & Responsibilities

In addition to knowing the overall role of the masjid board it requires an internal understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each board member. Masjid board members should all be focused in one area and be held accountable for those focus areas in board meetings. Roles and responsibilities should be laid out in position manuals and the constitution and by-laws of the masjid.

Accessibility to the Community

Many masjid board members remain virtually anonymous and inaccessible to the community.  This lack of accessibility festers mistrust between the community and masjid boards and doesn’t make community members feel a part of the decision-making process. This may be done knowingly or unknowingly by some masjid boards, but this practice has to stop immediately if we want to see our masjids and our communities grow. At a minimum masjid boards should have quarterly General Body Meetings to discuss any community issues and challenges and also have a Suggestions Box or email addresses clearly on the masjid website for community members to email.

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.

3 Types of Transparency Masjids Need (ASAP)

The Dalai Lama said:
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity”

Most masjid boards and leadership’s biggest weaknesses is their lack of transparency. Many donors and community members complain about masjid board’s lack of transparency. A lack of transparency discourages donors from donating and discourages community members from supporting the masjid or even being a part of the community at times.

Transparency doesn’t mean revealing every detail about masjid operations. There is some information that should remain confidential for the protection of the community as a whole (for example employee salaries). However, what is meant by transparency is how funds are being spent, policies and procedures, elections and hiring and firing policies and procedures. A lack of transparency can virtually kill donor and community members’ confidence and develop a deep-seated mistrust  in the masjid board and leadership which will cripple a masjid’s ability to move forward and grow.

There are three types of transparency a masjid needs to have with its donors and community members: financial transparency, operational transparency, and strategic transparency.

Financial Transparency

Transparency at a financial level includes showing how donations and funds are being spent and allocated. This can be as simple as releasing income and expense statements, but doing so in a way where the average community member can understand. Using charts and pie graphs can help immensely. Releasing financial statements that only an accountant or individuals with an finance background would be able to understand really isn’t helpful in helping your average community member understand what’s going on financailly at the masjid.  Keep it simple and easy to understand.

Releasing quarterly financial reports to the community can go a long way in building donor and community members’ confidence in the masjid board and leadership. It also allows donors and community members to keep the masjid board and leadership accountable for their expenditures and allocation of funds.

Operational Transparency

Transparency in operations is critical. This includes clearly outlining what masjid policies have been adopted from everything from how the facility is to be used to how zakat will be collected and distributed. Having a policies and procedures PDF or text available on your masjid’s website can go a long way in clarifying a lot of policy positions that the masjid has adopted or taken. This can help avoid a lot of confusion and problems in the operations of your masjid.

New policies and procedures adopted by the masjid need to be communicated to the masjid via its email newsletter or even at quarterly General Body Meetings with the community.

Strategic Transparency

Communicating strategy and masjid strategic plans to donors and community members can also go a long way as well. Explaining where the masjid board and leadership plan to take the masjid in 5-10 years or more can help build confidence in leadership, but also allows for donors and community members to offer critical insight, feedback, ideas and potentially resources to achieve the goals more effectively and even in less time than planned.

Masjid strategic goals need to be shared with the community on a quarterly basis to report progress and report challenges and obstacles that may be hindering the masjid from reaching its goals. This allows community members to provide feedback, ideas and resources to overcome the obstacles. This also gets community buy-in in the strategic plan and goals of the masjid board and leadership. Empowering community members and making them feel a part of the process goes a long way in building confidence and trust with masjid boards and leadership.