Tag: masjid

How to Create and Change a Masjid Culture

When we speak of creating and changing masjid culture we aren’t talking about ethnic or racial cultures, but creating an environment and a mode of operation for your masjid based on Islamic values, ethics and morals. Many masjid boards fail to create a culture or environment which promotes Islamic values or values that help in community growth and development. This can be due to a couple of reasons: losing donors, “rocking the boat” too much due to angering a large demographic of the community, and other factors. Unfortunately due to this many masjid boards tend to go with the safe route of keeping a certain status quo and are afraid of “rocking the boat” when it comes to changes at the masjid.

This means creating these cultures below (but are not limited to):

  • Creating a culture of leadership
  • Creating a culture of adherence to Islamic values, ethics and morals
  • Creating a culture of professionalism
  • Creating a culture of learning and education
  • Creating a culture of empowerment
  • Creating a culture of operational and financial transparency
  • Creating a culture of community development
  • Creating a culture of mercy and empathy
  • Creating a culture of community service
  • Creating a culture of interfaith dialogue and activism
  • Creating a culture of inclusiveness

How Do You Create a Masjid Culture?

A masjid’s role in creating a culture is done by creating policies and procedures for both operations and for the community. More than the creation of policies and procedures if implementation and enforcement of policies and procedures. You can write pages and pages of policies and procedures but they mean nothing if they are not enforced by staff, volunteers and board members.

How Do You Change a Masjid Culture?

Changing a masjid culture is a hard task, but is one that is extremely important if we are to see our communities grow and flourish. This means creating policies and procedures as mentioned above, but more importantly enforcing and creating awareness about the policies. The role of the masjid board is to enforce the policies and procedures along with encouraging community members to adhere to the policies and procedures. This can also be supported by reinforced messages in khutbahs and halaqas by imams and scholars to the community. Additionally, creating committees committed to enforcing the cultural shifts can include creating a Women’s Committee, Youth Committee, Welcome Committee, and other committees that create platforms that empowers community members to work on programs, events and projects that promote inclusivity in the masjid. Other committees could include more operational committees that assist with masjid operations like a Facility Management Committee, a Strategy Committee, and an Operations Committee, HR (Human Resources) Committee, and Professional Development Committee, Fundraising & Fund Development Committee and others.

Is It Possible?

The short answer is yes. However, when it comes to changing a masjid culture it takes speed, strategy and precision. Moving too slowly to change a masjid culture can allow for groups to form around issues and create unnecessary divisions in the community over the masjid cultural shift. A masjid board also needs to be strong enough (not in an arrogant way) to adhere to positive and Islamic changes to masjid culture. Wavering in committing to a masjid cultural shift can derail efforts and eventually cause more problems than necessary for the community. As was mentioned previously masjid boards need to avoid falling into being influence in their decision-making when it comes to making decisions for the community. This is particularly important that this doesn’t happen when it comes to pushing to change and create a masjid culture. Having high-income donors derail the masjid cultural shift by disagreeing with the masjid cultural changes is detrimental to community growth and development. Masjid boards need to avoid that influence at all costs when it comes to creating and changing their masjid culture.

Lastly, a masjid board also needs to empower community members to be change agents and leaders in leading the charge in changing a masjid culture. It requires an entire community at a masjid to change a culture. Empower the right community members and you’ll see your community grow and flourish.


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.


The Importance of A Good, Well-Written Constitution & By-Laws

A good, well-written and easy-to-understand constitution and by-laws can assist a masjid board in ensuring that their operations run smoothly for years to come. Unfortunately, the common problem most masjids face is their constitutions are by-laws are not clear, or are not adhereed to by the masjid board or simply don’t meet the needs of the community and the masjid’s operations.The constitution and by-laws of a masjid should be revisited every 5 years to ensure that the documents makes sense and take into account the growth and changes your community undergoes.

If a constitution and by-laws are unclear to the masjid board and the community then it may be time to revisit your constitution and by-laws to ensure the documents are meeting the needs of your community. Revisiting and revising the two documents can help in ensuring that there are no loop-holes that could be abused potentially by board members and also improve transparency of the masjid board operations overall.

A masjid’ constitution and its by-laws should be easily accessible to community members who request the documents. Deliberately hiding the constitution and by-laws increases the community’s mistrust and decreases confidence in masjid boards. Thus, ensure your constitution and by-laws are easily accessible and readily available for review or revision.

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.

10 Mistakes Masjids Make

Building a masjid structure is easy, but are we really building our masjids to last?  If we truly want to see our masjids progress and  grow we need to address the following areas.

1) A Lack of a Clear Mission and Vision Statement

Many times the mission and vision statements of masjids are fluff and lack substance. It may sound great, but if your donor base/target audience is asking itself “Ok, but what exactly do you do and how do you do it?” it’s a problem.  A strong mission and vision statement alone can solve so many problems for masjids. Externally to the target audience and/or donor base it shows you have a strong idea and direction. Internally, in your organization it allows for your staff and volunteers to know what their focus is and what they’re working towards. It can also do wonders in terms of boosting efficiency, morale and work performance of staff and volunteers if they truly understand and buy-in to the mission and vision of your organization.

2) Strategic Planning

The second biggest problem is most masjids fail to do strategic planning. Many think simply starting a masjid is the end all and be all of their work. However, simply starting a masjid is only the beginning. We need to ask the tough questions :

“how will we sustain this operations 10 years down the road?” , “what direction do want to take 10 years down the road?”,  “how and when do we want to expand operations?” , “can we hire staff in the near future and how?” “how will we measure our success and achievements”

Answering these questions and more can solve so many problems in the long term and also can build up confidence, morale and support amongst your target audience, donor base, supporters, staff, and volunteers.

3) Financial Sustainability

Financial sustainability is by far the heart of the problem when it comes to our masjids truly moving forward. It’s unfortunate that we see small staffs in masjids, Muslim organizations and Muslim institutions. Not only is this unsustainable, but it will eventually burn out your staff and make them lose morale, work performance and interest in their jobs. Also, if your staff or board of directors is constantly worried about whether there will be enough money to sustain operations it doesn’t allow them to think at a higher more strategic level to improve operations, services, programs and expansion.

Masjids need to look into self-sustaining financial sustainability models which may include corporate partnerships, real estate investments (residential and commercial), endowments, and other models. If we fail to look for long term financial sustainability for our institutions and organizations we will fail to grow, fail to expand and fail to become more effective in our services and programs.

4) Human Resource Sustainability

By far the most common mistake masjids make is allowing staff or employees to stay in a particular position for more than 10 years. This is a huge mistake and stagnates the growth of an organization or institution. Individuals who are in the same position for over 10 years need to be given a raise, promotion to a higher position or a retirement package or pension. The existence of staff or employees who have been in an organization or institution suffocates growth, expansion and innovation.

This is not to say that individuals who are in organizations or institutions for more than 10 years in the same position are doing awful jobs or their performances are lacking, but more often than not their mere existence in an organization without professional development or growth for them or upward movement in the organizational structure can severely hinder progress, growth, innovation and expansion. If we look at any major sports team the team always recruits and drafts younger players. Similarly, organizations and institutions need to look for top talent for the positions they’re looking for. This means not hiring the “good brother” or “good sister” who everyone says needs a job. Pity hiring isn’t a long term solution nor is it professional.  Organizations and institutions need to hire based on experience, impact, skills and ability.

5) Retention of Talent & High Turnover

This brings us to the next point: losing amazingly talented individuals. Many Muslim institutions and organizations offer awful salaries and you’re lucky to find one that offers benefits. It’s unfortunate that we pay Muslim staff and employees less-than-competitive salaries with no incentives to perform at a high level which in turn impacts performance and the effectiveness of the organization as a whole. Due to this we see high turnover due to the frustration of staff and employees who don’t see any personal or professional growth in the institutions and organizations they are serving. While it is noble to sacrifice oneself for the community and work hard for the community or the target audience it’s not fair to pay less-than-competitive salaries to staff and employees while they can look for better jobs and career opportunities elsewhere.

In order to address this we need to retain talent and offer competitive salaries, benefits and offer professional growth opportunities.

6) A Lack of Transparency

One of the biggest discouraging factors for donors is a lack of transparency. This doesn’t just mean financial transparency, but operational transparency as well. When organizations or institutions lack financial transparency it makes donors think twice if not thrice about donating to you. It also may turn them away altogether from donating to your organization at all.

7) Communication with Community Members/Donors

Most masjids fail miserably with communicating with their community members/donors. This includes simply having a functional website, a functional email that gets checked consistently, an office that is fully staffed, a phone number that works and is answered and lastly keeping up with social media trends and using social media platforms effectively.

8) Quality Control & Accountability

Quality control and accountability is something that as Muslims is a part of our spiritual practice. We are exhorted to do the best job and perform at a high level with attention to detail. Unfortunately, we don’t always see this in our organizations and institutions. This includes keeping staff and board members accountable for their actions and responsibilities, ensuring programs and services are delivered with excellence and ensuring the “customer service” experience for all community members/donors/ is an amicable one.

9) Marketing & PR

Marketing and PR are often the last thing on the list of priorities for the masjid. However, having an effective marketing and PR capacity can help increase financial support, moral with your community members and also increase confidence overall in your organization’s work and brand.

10) Relevancy

Lastly, most masjids have programs, services and projects they feel will be the best for the community however most of the time they miss the mark. Many masjids haven’t done market studies or market research on their target market or end-user/beneficiary. Irrelevancy can lead to a waste of resources and lead to frustration with staff and board members who don’t see results of their hard work and effort. Simply understanding your market is a huge step in being effective in how to strategically deliver your services or programs.