Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.
Have you ever made an announcement at a board meeting and everyone is excited and pledges to be involved in this new plan or initiative? WOO HOO!
Then, a little time goes by and it’s like crickets. Nobody is doing anything and you feel like you’re in it all alone. Where did everyone go?
When you work with a nonprofit board, creating an environment where participation is valued is essential. Reflect on this a minute and ask yourself, “How have I encouraged and supported the success of each volunteer?”
You want to be sure you’ve created a true partnership where both staff and volunteers are holding each other accountable and are there to support each other. When you do, you’ll see volunteers leaning in and following up, asking you what you need, requesting information or guidance and performing at a higher level than before! All that leads to more money, more people and more community awareness. Wouldn’t that be nice?
What can you do to keep board members engaged between board meetings?
- Follow up right away. What we know for sure is that the magic of board engagement happens between meetings. So whether you had a great discussion, made a key decision, agreed on next steps for a project or set a new policy – get the minutes out within a few days. Better yet, when you send the email with the attachment, list a few bullets with the most important information and action steps right in the text of the email. This supports a culture of accountability and keeps everyone on the same page. And, for anyone who couldn’t make the meeting, it tells them you missed them and want to be sure they feel included. Additionally, any action items that need individual follow up should get attention from the appropriate board member (e.g. committee chair) to support success. Train them to form this habit of contacting their peers to follow up. You aren’t in this alone.
- Send them emails with impact stories and other operational updates. Do you have a compelling testimonial from someone who directly benefitted from your services this month? You can have awesome Mission Moments at board meetings, but what about the folks who weren’t there? Studies show that board members who have a strong understanding of your programs will stay engaged and perform better. So show them how their leadership is changing lives everyday and keep them connected to the mission. This can motivate them to engage in the work between meetings.
- Ask individual members for help on something specific. In a meeting it’s easy to get excited about something new! And in order to convert that enthusiasm into action you must follow up with them individually. Everyone is different! For instance, if you’re expanding your geographic footprint, ask someone to lead a task force and market to the new audience; invite others to be the planners or story tellers, etc. Divide this work up amongst your volunteers - you aren’t in this alone. Tune into their individual motivation and present the opportunity to participate between meetings in a way that has meaning for them while at the same time achieving your goals.
- Facilitate relationships amongst your board members. Believe it or not, one of the main reasons volunteers remain on your board is because of the rrelationships they form with others. So create ways for them to interact beyond business. In the first tip, we noted when peers follow up with each other, engagement increases; it also builds relationships. Think about social opportunities. Could you have a year-end celebration at a ball game with your volunteers? Or a holiday social at one of your volunteer’s homes? A very simple way to increase socialization is to provide 30 minutes of social time either right before or after your meetings. When you allow your leadership team to get to know each other, they will work together better and count on each other between the meetings.
Your board members are committed to the success of your organization. Sometimes they need more direction and follow up to confidently engage between meetings. And when your board is fully engaged, you’ll be able to raise more money, recruit more people to your cause and increase community awareness!
If you’d like to learn more about the 10 keys to an engaged board, try out his checklist and see how you measure up!
Cindi spent many years as a nonprofit professional, 18 of those as a YMCA Executive Director. She has successfully led boards and staff teams to navigate their toughest hurdles. At Create Possibility, she is a fierce advocate for nonprofit leaders across the U.S. so they can build stronger boards and reach their goals faster. Learn more about her work now at www.possibility-cp.com