Recently, through no fault of my own, I was elected to the Board of my “condo” community (we’re not really condos, we’re a planned unit development with very limited planning, but whatever). Last week one of the homeowners submitted plans to replace and expand her deck and one of the other Board members responded to the request with “We have rules. [former manager] has copies he’s sent out before. Oh, and the color’s wrong.” OUCH.
I immediately wrote back to say that this had the reek of “because we’re the mommy… that’s why” about it and that surely we could be more tactful. Another Board member weighed in – he’s lived here since the community was built and holds the honor(?) of being the first person to move in – saying that the size was determined so that the townhouses next door had more privacy, that expanding the deck would enable that home to look into their neighbor’s home. Perfect! Explaining why not rather than simply saying “we have rules” is far less confrontational.
Why do I bring this up? Because this is something that happens in libraries and professional organizations all the time.
When an organization says “we can’t”, I wonder why. Is it in the rules? Maybe the rules need to be changed. Is it because they haven’t before? Maybe it’s time to try it once, see how it goes. Look at what similar organizations are doing and see if there’s a reason why it is/isn’t going to work in your situation. One of the biggest problems is the march of technology – very understandable that you might not have wanted to spend a lot of time and effort creating a web page back in the mid-90s, but by the late 90s it was obvious that needed to be part of your organization’s life. Considering posting videos or podcasts? Ok, that might be sensitive from a privacy or copyright point-of-view, but if others are doing it without problems, then perhaps you should consider it. Etc..
Communicating the why or why not is critical to good relationships with the community. If someone comes in and says, “[organization x] is doing this, why aren’t we?” the response can’t be “because” or “there are rules.”