Board volunteers bark back: Part 2 of 3

Monday’s blog post titled “Hey board members: Sit – Lay Down – Roll Over” looked at board members who agree to “sit” on non-profit boards but don’t seem to understand they’ve been asked to “serve” on those boards. Yesterday, I shared some of the feedback that I’ve received from actual board volunteers. My plan is to share more of that feedback with you today and again tomorrow.

As you know, I sent an online survey to a number of board volunteers. The fourth question I asked board volunteers was an open-ended question: “How would you answer the question posed in the Facebook message from my non-profit friend? As a reminder, her question was ‘What can we do to help shift that mentality – to help professionals and individuals with the means to give that it is a SERVICE to the greater good, not just a spot to occupy around a conference room table?'”  Here were some interesting responses:

“Make it clear to prospective board members that they will be expected to do more than attend meetings…tell them specifically what service they will be expected to render.”

“Provide board members with reminders and updates regarding what their time and efforts have accomplished.  (i.e. what impact their service has had on the organization).   Focus board meetings on completing service and not merely approving what the director or CEO has done in the organization.”

“You give board members assignments with deadlines.  This makes them responsible to the ’cause’.”

“Be very specific about expectations before confirming a new board member and then make sure orientation is pointed about what is required of board members.   Having a board “retreat” to re-engage board members would be a great way to remind everyone of their commitment.”

“From a non-profit perspective, demonstrating the impact that the non-profit has on the community is probably the best way to shift that mentality.  The real key is to shift the mentality of the mentor/supervisor of the professional, so that they look at the service opportunity from a different perspective.  Attorneys typically bill by the hour, so we are very conscious of time and the opportunity cost when we are not working on billable matters.”

“At every monthly meeting we began by reading aloud the agency’s mission statement and then individually we reported what we did that month to achieve our board goals (attended subcommittee meetings, went on a fundraising call, meet with staff, etc.)  We only took a couple of minutes each to briefly stated what we have done.”

I find it so interesting that our board volunteers point to the prospect identification, recruitment and orientation activities associated with board development as a way to facilitate a paradigm shift, but no one talks about annual year-end board volunteer evaluations. I suspect that many non-profit organizations take time to write technically proficient board development plans, include evaluation procedures and tools, and then ignore (or dramatically underutilize) the evaluation portion of the plan.

Attention non-profit professionals! If you want to change the mentality on your board from “sitting” to “serving,” I strongly recommend employing your board volunteer evaluation tools. While it is not your role to personally do the evaluating, you must provide support to your board development volunteers and coach them through this annual process.

Please use the comment box below and weigh-in with your thoughts on the feedback provided by some of our board volunteers in today’s blog. Do you find annual board volunteer evaluations to be difficult at your agency? Do you have any tips or tricks to share with your fellow readers? A few of the survey respondents suggested that “accountability” needs to be added to a board’s culture . . . how do you accomplish that at your agency especially when many board members are likely your best donors? We can learn from each other!

Here is to your health!

Erik Anderson
Owner, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

One comment

  1. I serve on several boards in this community. At 2 of the organizations, the ED has been responsible for providing an orientation rather than another board member. In one of the organizations, orientation was not provided at all. With this organization, members sink or swim. The thing that is most annoying to me is that great criticisms are often leveled at the EDS with no similar “come to Jesus” activities held with Board members.

    Building accountability into the expectations and practice of Boards of Directors is vital. Chaff is separated from the wheat.

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