What’s In It For Me? (Part 2)
by Larry Kaufman
In a previous post, I talked about what rights and expectations you have, in return for serving on your temple board. Most people will reply that they don’t expect anything other than the satisfaction of giving back, that working for a worthwhile cause like their temple makes them feel good, and that’s all they need. While those replies are typically offered sincerely, there are unspoken expectations, and those unspoken expectations are legitimate and important. The temple owes you more than personal “warm fuzzies.”
- You have a right to be recognized. Whether it’s a listing on a letterhead, or in an annual report, or at a Volunteer Appreciation Night, your good works should not be kept a secret – and you shouldn’t have to be the one who tells the world about the good things you do.
- You have the right to be appreciated, and to be thanked. The thank you can be spoken, written, public or private, or all of the above. You are entitled to know that your work is not being taken for granted.
- You have the right to retire. As I said in another recent post,no one should put you on a guilt trip when you decide you’ve had enough. Serving on a synagogue board should not be a life sentence… but neither should it provide lifetime tenure. Having term limits in the by-laws provides protection both for the synagogue and for its trustees.
- You have the right to know why you specifically are being asked to serve, and you have the right not to be taken by surprise with obligations you weren’t told about up front. Some people are pleased to serve on boards and volunteer their services in the area of their professional expertise. That’s why accountants so often end up as treasurer or budget committee chair. Personally, when I work at my profession, I like to be paid for my services, and I want my volunteer activities to give me a change of pace from the challenges I confront on a day-to-day basis. So don’t ask me to write your brochure – but if you want me to chair adult education, that’s fine.
- As a corollary, you have the right to personal growth – to be given assignments that allow you to stretch yourself, to learn new things, to gain new experiences, to emerge as a fuller person than when you started. You also have the right, though, to stay within your comfort zone, and to do the things you are confident you can do well.
- You have the right to be listened to with respect. But you also have the obligation to differentiate between situations where your opinion on a given issue is not valued and situations where you as the opinionator are not valued. If you lose on an issue, that does not give you the right to take your football and go home. If you lose on a principle, you do have the right to ask yourself if you belong on this board.
It’s been said that the three things organizations look for from their volunteers are the three T-words – time, talent, and treasure. And in return, volunteers are entitled to look for three T-words – thanks, thanks, thanks.
The URJ has published a Brit Avodah, a Covenant of Service, for board members of Union congregations.
Spotlight on Leadership and Transitions- This month the URJ is highlighting resources to help congregations with governance, leadership development and transitions. Learn more on the URJ website.