Nonprofit organizations can thrive or flounder because of a single aspect- their board of directors. What may surprise you is that there is something far more important than who is on the board, and that is how the board is functioning. Without guidance, many well meaning board members will remain disengaged and their talents wasted. The fact of the matter is that each person has a reason they're on the board of directors. Maybe the nonprofit touched their family in some way. Maybe it's mission has to do with the industry of their employer, and they find it interesting. Since the role of a board member is critical to the overall sustainability and flow of a nonprofit's work, investing in supporting these leaders is also crucial. Board members are your ambassadors, advocates, strategists, and supporters. They do their important work outside of work hours and on top of all of their personal activities. They are not afraid to have difficult conversations when it comes to challenges a nonprofit is navigating.
So, how do you engage these dedicated, talented individuals in a meaningful way? Here are some great ideas by The National Council for Nonprofits:
Assign new board members a “board buddy” to serve as a mentor for the first few meetings: offering a ride to the meeting, greeting them at the door, and sitting next the new board member can make a big difference in “first impressions.”
Include a bio of all the other board members in the board orientation materials and if there is a statement of values or code of conduct that the nonprofit has adopted, be sure to share that also.
Host a special gathering that is purely social – creating personal connections and fostering trust and respect will bolster the board’s ability to have candid conversations and make tough decisions.
Structure board meeting agendas around important questions that the nonprofit needs to answer and strategic priorities so that the board is continually being asked to think about the future and see the “big picture.” One of our favorite ideas is to divide the agenda into three sections to stimulate thinking: "hindsight, foresight, and insight."
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Our board members are key volunteers at our nonprofits. Providing them with welcomed guidance and the tools they need to succeed with go a long way in engaging them in their leadership role.