How often have we been frustrated with our Board members for not making a Board meeting, showing up late to the meeting, or not being prepared for the meeting despite the fact that you sent them 10 documents to review ahead of time?
I know I have. Repeatedly. Ahem!
And then a couple months ago, I was that Board members running late to a (undisclosed) Board meeting with a folder full of documents I had been sent ahead of time but I had not reviewed them. I was late and not prepared.
That’s when it clicked! I understood why my Board members run late, aren’t prepared or miss the meeting all together.
Because we are volunteers. Our full time job comes first. Our family comes first. Our time comes first.
So, how do we effectively engage our Board members so that they are prepared for meetings, actively engaged in their role and helping the organization directly utilizing their skills and talents?
- Treat the Board as individual members and not as a group.
- Customize your correspondence and outreach to their preference: text, phone, email or in-person.
- Identify each board’s members skill set and how they can serve the organization with these talents. Each board member is expected to fundraiser, but each member will do that in a different way. A couple members will be solicitors, a couple will open doors/make introductions to donors and a couple will review fundraising materials.
- Peer-to-Peer communication and activities.
- Create space for the board to socialize together outside of board meetings – and not at an organizational event. The USD Alumni Board hosts an informal get-together at the on-campus bar post-board meetings. It is a great time to socialize and unwind from a long board meeting.
- Utilize the Board Chair to make requests of his or her fellow Board members instead of staff.
- Make group goals.
- There is a constant debate over whether a board should have or enforce a minimum annual donation from each member. I suggest setting a group giving goal for the entire board. Some board members will give more and some will give less – in line with their giving capacity. Facilitating the board to set their own giving goal creates buy-in and ownership. Once the goal is set, provide quarterly updates to Board members on their giving progress.
- Ongoing Education
- At each board meeting, have a guest speaker or informational session to keep your board informed of new programs, staff members or interesting updates so they feel in the “know” and will hopefully share this information with their colleagues.