I hear it all the time – “Our board isn’t engaged.” Hmmmm.  If you want an engaged board then YOU need to engage them. Let’s think about how you’re thinking about board engagement.

Think about how you recruited them. Then how you oriented and onboarded them. Then how you equipped them for success. Then how you continued to involve them and nurture those relationships and encouraged them and had their backs when they needed it and….


The board you have is the board you created (or perhaps inherited) so if it isn’t working out for you, let’s have a look at how you can get back on track.

Take these 3 steps and watch your partnership thrive!

1. Talk to them. Seriously, look your individual board members in the eye and have a conversation. If you have a national board, use video chat. At least once a year, present them with the gift of your undivided attention one-to-one. Ask them how they are enjoying their board service. Ask them what goals they have for the next year. Ask for feedback on an upcoming project. Heck, ask them if they intend to renew their term.

If you haven’t had a chat with your volunteers recently, think about how you’re thinking about it. Why haven’t you? Do you feel like you don’t have enough time? Then don’t expect them to fully engage because you aren’t either and they need you.

You expect them to lend their expertise, generate resources and be community ambassadors for the organization. It seems to me they are worthy of your time. And there is no reason why the board president and executive director can’t split up this task, especially if you have a large board.

2. Hold them accountable. Yep, they want to be productive and add value to your work or they wouldn’t be there. So follow up with them when they say they are going to make an introduction. Ask what they need when they say they will host a reception for you. Share progress reports with the full board and celebrate the wins along the way during a project.

Be as specific with each board member as you can be and treat them as individuals. Different people have different perspectives, talents and learning styles. They may need different kinds of support. But at the end of the day, they need to own their own stuff and the value of peer influence should not be underestimated; empower your committee chairs and officers to lead the way on this.

3. Evaluate their performance. (gasp!) What?! They are volunteers, we couldn’t possibly! Just kidding. High functioning boards recognize the value of taking a step back and assessing their work. The board is legally responsible for the organization. Are they paying attention?

In addition to self-reflection by individual members, each year you can do a simple e-survey to look at performance to goals, board member satisfaction and overall organizational health. What you do with the results is critical. Share them in the aggregate and then have a discussion with the board to determine if any action is needed.

It’s also a good time to clarify roles and make sure everyone understands their responsibilities. When volunteers see how you are committed to continuous improvement, they will engage in even more meaningful ways.

You may have noticed that communication is a common thread here. It’s at the foundation of all high performing boards. They don’t take each other for granted or make assumptions. They work together to achieve their mission.

You can too. Not sure how to get started with strengthening your partnership? Email me and let’s figure out how to work through it together.