What’s all the fuss about?  Would it really be so bad to do away these boards?  I mean, they’re kind of a lot to handle, right?

I started this blog nine years ago. This post is the 4th one I wrote back then.  And after a recent conversation with a nonprofit CEO who was grousing about certain board members, I realized it’s still relevant.

Allow me to repeat myself, with a few enhancements.

I spend my days helping organizations strengthen their boards.  It’s fun, challenging and rewarding work!

And I see a common theme.  When staff don’t truly understand the value of volunteers, or when volunteers and staff aren’t fully committed to the partnership required to optimize results, things can get a little dicey.

Some key points to remember about the incredible value of a strong, dedicated board:

This isn’t a list of roles and responsibilities…..but rather an outline of some of the value gained by everyone when we take the time to invest in building a high performing team of volunteers.

  • Board members are passionate advocates for your cause and the organization. Nobody knows everyone, so consider advocacy as having a multiplier effect regarding public relations. When staff educate volunteers well on how to speak about the important community needs the organization meets, great things can come from their interactions.
  • Committed volunteers are trusted advisors. Typically staff have expertise in program development, and other subject matter areas. There are plenty of times when strategizing about the best way to handle a situation is needed, or there isn’t anyone on staff who is knowledgeable on a certain topic. This is where committee work, or individual discussions with specific volunteers are very helpful in filling gaps.
  • More hands make light work. Let’s get serious. When it comes to managing special projects, committees, fundraising, etc., we need as many talented folks on our team as is practical!  In order to carry out the plan a strong, diverse group of volunteers is invaluable.  And dare I say…this is free labor.
  • An often overlooked benefit of developing a strong board is leadership development. Volunteers want to be challenged and know that their time and wisdom is being utilized effectively. When CEOs slow down to teach board members how to advocate, fundraise, lead a committee, recruit another board member, etc., they are investing in that volunteer’s personal growth. The result is a more satisfied board member who may stay on the board longer to help reach your goals.
  • Board members have an external community focus with a diverse perspective. So while staff mostly focus on internal operations, volunteers can provide valuable insight, especially during planning, on what is really happening in the community.  If a good job of recruiting various backgrounds and experiences to the board has occurred, this only strengthens the team.
  • We all need inspiration at times! Volunteers can be encouraging and optimistic, and let’s face it…a nonprofit staff team has some very challenging days. It’s wonderful to get support from others. And when volunteers are spread too thin, or discouraged, the staff can buoy them up too.

Look around at the most successful nonprofits you know – the ones who are thriving during a pandemic, the ones who are creatively meeting  needs. Odds are they have a strong partnership between board and staff and appreciate the value each provides.

To learn more about strengthening your board, give me a call.