Tag: Transparency

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.


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.

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.