I recently had a client ask me to explain to his board why they need to be engaged.

I tried not to be surprised. Then I realized this was a bigger deal than I may have realized.

As I talked to his volunteers, I got a mix of perspectives:
* One thought they should be more engaged and was interested in figuring out what that looked like
* Another said being more involved was probably appropriate but “whatever.”
* Another said each board member was there for a different reason and so each person could do whatever was most important to them.

So allow me to outline why it does really matter that board members are involved and paying attention.

The top 5 reasons your board members need to be engaged:

1. They have a legal and fiduciary responsibility. The 3 D’s outline this as the Duty of Care (paying attention to minutes, budgets, overall operation), Duty of Loyalty (no conflict of interest please) and Duty of Obedience (the mission, bylaws and policies drive all decisions and you need to be compliant).

When board members aren’t dialed in, you create potential exposure and who needs more risk?

2. Board members are champions and advocates for the corporation. How can your volunteers be effective in carrying your important message and involving folks in the community if they aren’t involved or paying attention themselves?

Encouraging the community to participate as partners, volunteers, donors and more is essential to any nonprofit.

3. You are counting on them to raise money. Every nonprofit has different needs and expectations when it comes to philanthropy. And being part of the philanthropy team is a role all board members should be playing.

If board members don’t want to assist in generating revenue, they are not a good fit for your board.

4. Your board sets the direction for your organization. Planning is a key function for all boards – whether it’s formal strategic planning or determining if you should pursue a specific initiative, this is a part of governance.
Without a clear direction that everyone is aligned around, you risk inefficiencies at best and worse, significantly reduced mission impact.

How can you get where you want to go if you don’t know where that is?

5. Board members hire, support and evaluate the CEO. What happens if your board isn’t paying attention to this? I see this way too often. Annual performance reviews are ineffective if they exist at all; selection procedures are chaotic and not conducted by experts; CEOs are doing their best in a dysfunctional environment, perhaps without clear goals, and may end up leaving.

There are a plethora of board engagement strategies to consider: from how you conduct meetings to how you leverage individual board member’s passions and talents.

If you need help putting together a Board Engagement Plan, let me know.

Let’s be sure your board is serving as your best ally!