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Nonprofit Board Stages of Development

Nonprofit boards go through a number of stages to reach maturity.  

I have framed these stages to be akin to human developmental stages: infancy, juvenile, adolescence and maturity.  My study suggests that boards in their infancy and early juvenile stages tend to pay more attention to operations and management (often being operations and management) and when past this, begin to focus on governing while hanging onto managing in late juvenile and early adolescence stages.  Toward the end of adolescence, boards begin to embrace a role more dominated by governing and in a mature state, lead an advanced form of governance that embraces strategy as well as advocacy and fundraising (a form of advocacy I might pose).

That said, when founders "hang-in" and "on" to leadership throughout these stages, the good news in a loyal subscription to the original mission.  It's not that later board members don't hang-onto mission but new members often bring shifts and missions can indeed morph if not change altogether without the presence of founders.  Clearly, orientation is critical throughout the life of a nonprofit board.

Below is a story about Cuba's Ladies in White.   As the Washington Post article notes, this group of women are dissidents seeking human rights and justice for those who have been jailed for speaking out against the government.  It should however come as little surprise that a group of dissidents might someday experience dissonance among their ranks driven however not by newcomers specifically but by the daughter of the founder.  Laura Maria Labrada Pollan believes the group's leadership has strayed from the way of her mom and she has even created another nonprofit.  

This is certainly an interesting study, based of course on limited data, of board life stages in motion.  I can't say the group ever really grew past adolescence but one thing crisis does do is to move a life stage away from forward.  And so, the Ladies in White must re-think their future and determine first how important is the voice of the founder's daughter, thus presumably the founder.  

Here's the story.


Laura Maria Labrada Pollan, daughter of the late co-founder of Cuba’s Ladies in White dissident group, Laura Pollan, on her T-shirt, reads a statement to reporters in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, March 19, 2015. Labrada says she rejects the management of current leader Berta Soler, and the expulsion of group members. She also said that Soler will no longer be able to use her parents’ home, which historically has functioned as the Ladies’ meeting house and headquarters. (Desmond Boylan/Associated Press)
By Associated Press March 19


HAVANA — The daughter of a founding member of Cuba’s Ladies in White publicly split with their current leader Thursday in the latest sign of division within the dissident group, which a decade ago was awarded the European Union’s top human rights prize.

Laura Maria Labrada, whose mother, Laura Pollan, was the Ladies’ leader and public face before her death in 2011, criticized Berta Soler’s management and the expulsion of group members.

“I have decided going forward to withdraw authorization for Berta Soler to use my mother’s name or associate it with behavior that goes against the principles she always defended,” Labrada said at a news conference in her mother and stepfather’s home.

She added that Soler is no longer welcome at the house, which traditionally has been the Ladies’ meeting place and headquarters.


Calls to Soler’s cellphone rang unanswered Thursday. Her husband and fellow dissident, Angel Moya, said she was in Miami.

The split came weeks after video surfaced online showing group members allied to Soler shouting down another longtime member, Alejandrina Garcia, during a December gathering at the home.

“Down with traitors!” ‘’She should leave!” and “We don’t want to hear her!” they yelled at Garcia, who had also disagreed with Soler’s leadership.

The scene resembled the “acts of repudiation” in which pro-government counter-protesters sometimes accost Cuba’s dissidents, yelling revolutionary slogans and personal epithets.

“As long as I am alive I will never allow another situation like the one that happened here,” said Hector Maseda, Pollan’s widower.

Some Ladies in White living overseas had called for Soler’s resignation in response to the incident. Soler announced she would submit her leadership to a referendum among members still on the island, a vote which she survived last week.

Labrada alleged that since Soler took over in 2011, members have been mistreated and unfairly expelled. Like Garcia, who was at the news conference, she also criticized the inclusion of men in their protests.


Labrada said she welcomes ongoing U.S.-Cuba negotiations on restoring diplomatic relations and reopening embassies in each other’s countries, in contrast to Soler’s harsh criticism of President Barack Obama after the December announcement.

Labrada said she has the support of 100 Ladies in White who are calling for an election, rather than a referendum, and the reincorporation of ousted members.

She also said she intends to start a nonprofit foundation named after her mother to help needy children, abused women and the elderly.

Wives and mothers of 75 activists jailed in a 2003 crackdown on dissent formed the Ladies in White over a decade ago to press for their loved ones’ release.

They became known for weekly marches along Havana’s leafy 5th Avenue on Sundays after Mass, wearing white and carrying gladiolas.

The last of the 75 prisoners were released in recent years, and nearly all the original Ladies have left the group.

With mostly new membership, they now protest to demand freedom for others they consider political prisoners and for democratic reform.

The government accuses dissidents of being traitors and “mercenaries” who accept money from abroad to undermine the revolution and Cuba’s Communist system.

In 2005 the European Union awarded its Sakharov human rights prize to the group.


Andrea Rodriguez on Twitter:

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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