Board volunteers bark back: Part 3 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. For the last two days, I shared some of the feedback that I’ve received from actual board volunteers. While I will share a few last tidbits of feedback today, I plan on sharing an “internal memo” from a very large company to its employees about why it encourages them to sit/serve on non-profit boards. I suspect the memo will be eye-opening for some of you. Stay tuned!

As you know, I sent an online survey to a number of board volunteers a few days ago with questions about board development. The final question I asked board volunteers was an open-ended question: “There is always room for improvement, even in highly functioning non-profit organizations! What are some things you wish your non-profit board would do (or do better) to get highly motivated and engaged individuals sitting around your boardroom table?” Here were some interesting responses:

“I would start by changing the question to ‘serving’ instead of sitting   😉  Next, is to set the expectation during the recruiting process.  I still find that he 80/20 rule applies even when everyone participates.  So, the next step is to recruit more and be willing to cut fat at the end of a term.  As the quality of participation grows it will spread throughout the board.  This is my hope anyway.”

“I think a good bit of it comes from expectations established by leaders on the board. The board members will only work as hard as the leadership team.”

“. . . assign an older board member to mentor new members ( preferably not close friends ), and orient new board  members on organization’s day-to-day activities and relationship between national and local organizations.”

“Consistency.  We have a board development plan (as well as other plans), but do not operate with it consistently.   That is why I answered “no” to question #1.   I think our board has great ideas; we just have issues with follow-through/up.”

“First things first, we have to keep the current board members engaged and motivated!  This is always an issue.  Depending on how your organization is run, you have to shop for board members that have a personal tie to you.  I have served as the President of our board with the Boys and Girls Club.  When I was little [childhood member], I was at the Boys Club everyday!  That’s what keeps me going.  In summary, you have to find people who either have a tie to the organization or have a passion for similar organizations.  You can’t simply bring in people who are nice!”

“Involved them in committees.  If they don’t participate in committees, ask them how they can contribute.  If they don’t, they should be removed from the board.”

“We brought on consultants to work with the executive committee.  We worked closely with our national organization.”

I think these board volunteers have a number of great suggestions. I especially liked the last one about bringing on a consultant; however, I suspect that you can probably see through my bias. LOL

Please use the comment box below to share what you’re doing at your agency. Are you firing volunteers? Assigning mentors to new members? Using committees to engage existing board members as well as prospective future board volunteers? Are you doing a better job with prospecting and recruiting? We can all learn from each other! I hope you enjoyed the last few days of hearing directly from board volunteers.

Here is to your health!

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

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