I was recently interviewed for the Successful Nonprofits podcast (watch for it in January!) and one of the questions was – what are the most critically essential components to effectively engage a nonprofit board?
You know by now that I firmly believe success starts with mindset. Take a minute to reflect on how you’re thinking about board engagement. Are you making assumptions? Do you have some limiting beliefs? Did one bad experience ruin your perspective? Do you have rose-colored glasses?
Do you understand why it benefits your community and advances your cause to have an engaged board? You’ll be able to raise more money, more awareness and more ideas! Doesn’t that sound like it’s worth the investment of time to optimize how your board is engaged in your work?
Once you’ve checked yourself on mindset issues, then assess how you’re doing on these 4 must-do’s to effectively engage your board:
1. Set clear expectations. Really clear. That means translate “be a community ambassador” into specific actions so they know what that looks like. From the first time you interact while recruiting them, through the onboarding process and beyond – outline expectations so there are no surprises.
2. Equip them for success. Now that they understand what they specifically can do to advance your mission, train them and give them the resources they need. Have they practiced telling your story? Have they ever been in front of a group before? Do they know how to effectively chair a committee? Again – check your mindset and don’t assume.
3. Line up champions. You don’t have to do this alone. As a matter of fact, you can’t do it well by yourself. Who are the people (either board or staff) who really understand the benefits of a strong, engaged board? Who is well-respected? Who has influence with your board? Sit and talk with them and outline your plan to intentionally engage your board and ask them to take a role in reshaping how your board operates.
4. Create feedback loops. So often I hear Board Presidents or Executive Directors lament about how board members aren’t stepping up to the plate. When I ask them if they’ve talked to the volunteer to find out what’s up, inevitably that answer is no. If you don’t know what’s causing an issue, you can’t address it. So whether it’s a quick feedback form at the end of a meeting, an annual board survey, a personal conversation or an exit interview, set some parameters for capturing your board members’ perspectives. I bet you’ll learn a lot and be able to better facilitate their success!
At the end of the day, it takes a team to successfully engage your board. Share this post with your champions and make change happen. I can’t wait to hear what amazing things you accomplish!