Tag: Leadership

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.


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.

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.


14 Questions We Need to Ask Before Building a Masjid

Many times we get eager and excited to build a masjid. We get excited when the cement foundation is placed and see the walls go up and the roof and get super excited when the masjid is complete. However, prior to even building a masjid the community and the masjid board needs to ask itself a couple of tough questions which if asked prior to the first brick being laid down will help the masjid prosper longer and grow much faster.

1) Why Are we Building a Masjid?

To some this is probably a simple or unnecessary question, but at a very fundamental level it will help keep the community and the masjid board focused for many years to come. It also helps orient the intentions of the community and masjid board to be for the sake of Allah instead of for egos or recognition. A part of this step would be to develop a mission and vision statement for the masjid. These two statements will help the masjid keep focused in achieving its goals.

2)  Are Our Constitution and By-Laws Solid?

Having a strong and clear constitution along with by-laws that are clear and easy to understand can help avoid several problems in the near future for your masjid. Some (if not all) masjids have some pretty awful constitutions and by-laws that are extremely narrow-sighted and short-sighted and limit the ability for the community to grow, function or operate properly.

A well-written constitution and by-laws will take into account the expansion and growth of the masjid and truly understand how to operate the masjid efficiently and effectively. A strong constitution and by-laws are the foundation on which a masjid is built. If the foundation is faulty the operations and execution of services and programs will suffer immensely over time and the masjid will never truly be able to realize its full potential.

 3) Can the Community Afford the Masjid?

Building a masjid is obviously a major expense for the entire community. It’s not easy to gain the funds necessary to build a masjid. Thus, it’s important to see if the community is able to afford the intiail costs of building a masjid.

4) What Facilities in the Masjid are Critical for its Operations?

Sometimes in our efforts to build a masjid we build huge beautiful structures and facilities, but often build masjids that don’t necessarily meet the needs of the community. Building a musallah (prayer area) is an obvious feature of a masjid, but our communities with the way they are developing need a lot more than a simple musallah. We need gyms, babysitting rooms, meeting rooms, conference rooms, classrooms, and other facilities critical to the operations of a functioning masjid.

Thus, it becomes important prior to laying the first brick to know the needs of the community and meet those needs while keeping in mind future expansion and growth of your community.

5) Are We Leaving Space for the Masjid Facility to Expand?

Many masjids make the mistake of not leaving enough space land-wise to expand their facility or plan for their community to grow. Thus, in the blueprints or planning of the masjid facility it’s important to plan for the future growth and expansion of your masjid and community. In 5-10 years your community may grow, but will the infrastructure of your masjid grow with it? If not, then you need to begin planning how to accommodate the needs of the community as it grows.

6) How Will the Masjid Operational Costs be Maintained?

Many masjids make the mistake of building huge facilities which the community can more often than not afford to maintain. It’s embarrassing to see masjid fundraisers year after year begging the community to donate or the masjid operations will grind to a halt. Begging year after year for masjid operational costs isn’t just embarrassing and unsustainable, but makes the community lose its confidence in the masjid board and leadership to make smart financial decisions for the community and also make community members question how the donations and funds are being allocated and spent.

7) What is the Long Term Financial Sustainability Plan for the Masjid?

This brings us to the next question: how do you plan to financially sustain the masjid? Masjids in this day and age should not be operating on a fundraising model of depending on donations from the community. There needs to be long-term planning where masjid funds are being spent or invested in opportunities to generate revenue for the masjid operations and expenses. This may include but not be limited to investing in buying rental or commercial properties that can be rented out to gain revenue for the masjid or building an endowment which funds  masjid operations and expenses. Continuously begging and demanding funds from one’s community builds donor fatigue and frustration long-term when the donors don’t see progress.

8) What is the Community Demographic the Masjid will be Serving?

Knowing your community demographics is so important not just in helping you understand what facilities to have in your masjid but also help you develop programs and services that meet the needs of your community. It makes no sense to build a gym when the majority of your community is elderly Muslims in their 60’s or 70’s. Likewise it makes no sense to create programs and services targeting families when the majority of your congregation and community is high school or university students.

Understanding and knowing your community demographics and their needs is critical to building a masjid that is effective in meeting the needs of the community. Conduct surveys or studies on your community to simply understand who you are serving and what their needs are. Getting community input and feedback is critical to becoming an effective masjid. Demographic studies should be conducted every two years to keep pulse about how your community is growing or changing.

9) What will the Role of the Masjid Be?

Masjids have their own unique strengths and weaknesses. Every masjid should identify its strengths and play towards it. Strengths may include location of the masjid or certain resources within your community you could use. For example, if your masjid is located in the middle of a city —perhaps your operations, programs and services may need to be different than one located in the suburbs. As for internal resources in your community perhaps you have a lot of doctors who may be able to provide a free healthcare clinic in your city/community.

10) What Services and Programs Will You Provide and How?

The basic obvious services a masjid needs to provide are: prayer, marriage services, zakat collection and distribution, Islamic classes, and funeral services. Beyond this the masjid leadership and community need to figure out what services or programs are needed to serve the community. This would require a survey to be conducted to figure out what the community needs.

11) What is the 5 Year Plan for the Masjid?

A 5 year plan for your masjid can assist and give you a roadmap of where you want your masjid and community to be. Simply keeping a status quo for 10-20+ years makes your community members lose faith and confidence in the masjid board’s ability to make decisions for the betterment and growth of the masjid and community.

12) What are Critical Staff (And Skills) Are Needed to Run the Masjid?

Many masjids simply think an imam is the only position truly needed full time to be a masjid employee, but honestly if we truly understood the needs of the community we would realize that masjids need upwards of 10-15 full-time employees to fully function and be effective. Simply having one imam at a masjid expecting  them to do everything from the adhaan (call to prayer), khutbahs (sermons ), cleaning and maintaining the masjid, conducting classes, and other responsibilities is simply not fair to the imam nor is it sustainable or effective.

There are so many critical services that masjids need to provide. We need to understand the needs of the local communities in which our masjids are built to provide critical services. Full-time staff with the necessary skills need to be hired who are given good salaries, benefits, and incentives to perform at a high-level and truly work towards meeting the needs of the community. High turnover can kill the progress of a masjid’s operations—thus hiring the right employees/staff is important and keeping them happy is critical to keeping operations smooth and consistent.

13) How do we Plan to Build a Community?

This is probably one of the most important of the questions in this list. We can build a beautiful masjid, but having the masjid empty 90% of the year except for Ramadan and jummahs then what’s the purpose of building the masjid in the first place? Our goal should be to have the masjid that is busy with programs and events throughout the week. There should be proactive efforts to build a community  that is inclusive, warm, welcoming and compassionate to all Muslims.
We may invest in beautiful masjid architecture, but do we invest in our communities? Do we invest in full-time staff to help build communities? Do we invest in full-time staff to connect the hearts of the Muslims to the masjid or do we feel that building beautiful masjids with soft carpets and expensive chandeliers are sufficient for our community?

14) Who are Our Neighbors and How Can we Work with Them?

While it’s important to build a community from within it’s also to understand the community that surrounds your masjid as well. If your masjid exists and is built and none of your neighbors know you exist then that’s problematic. Muslims should be known as community-changers and beneficial citizens to the communities in which they live. Your neighbors close to your masjid should be proud and happy that a masjid is being built in their vicinity because they know tha masjids are great resources that produce Muslims who contribute to the communities in which they live.