Dear board volunteers . . . Discover your case for support.

mardi gras mask3DonorDreams blog is honored to be hosting the May 2013 Nonprofit Blog Carnival. The theme this month is “Dear board volunteer . . .” and the idea is “If you could write an anonymous letter to a nonprofit board about something they do that drives you crazy, what would that letter look like and what suggested solutions would you include?” If you are a blogger and would like more information on how to participate and submit a post for consideration, please click here to learn more.

I wanted to expand the Nonprofit Blog Carnival concept in May. So, I reached out to real non-profit professionals and asked them to also write an anonymous letter to their board volunteers. These people are executive directors, fundraising professionals, board members, donors, community volunteers, consultants and front line staff. I promised everyone anonymity in exchange for their submissions.

We will celebrate May’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. Up to that fun-filled day, I will publish real anonymous letters every day from real non-profit professionals right here at DonorDreams blog.

I hope you enjoy this real look at real issues that our community deals with on a daily basis.

Today’s anonymous letter is a little different from Wednesday and Thursday’s submissions. This contributor decided to take on the persona of the iconic advice columnist Dear Abby.

Here is today’s letter:

Dear Abby,

It seems like every time I need a board member to do something really important, they have a conflict, are too busy, or are uncomfortable with the task. Please help!

Hoping for Change

Dear Hope,

On a summer evening two years ago, I received a call from one of our staff letting me know that a 17-year-old boy, named John had come to the Club after hours looking for help. John, who was in foster care and has cognitive disabilities, had an argument with his foster mother and she kicked him out of her car on a busy road. John was totally alone, but he found his way to the one place he knew was safe – the Boys & Girls Club.

The Club staff called John’s “in case of emergency” contacts to no avail. His foster mother refused to pick him up, his caseworker was busy. As I received these updates, I became acutely aware of the life my own two children were living. It was after dinner, I was reading them stories, our house had just been professionally cleaned. I began to cry as I thought about the stark contrast between my own children’s life and the life of this most vulnerable boy.

This could have been the day I decided my work was too depressing. Thankfully, this moment became a turning point for me. This is when I realized that what I do is more than just a job. Although, I wasn’t there to open the door for John that night, I knew that I had the power to open a door for others like him. Not only do I owe this to “those” kids, but to my own kids. I owe it to them to do everything in my power to make sure that they do not have to live in a world where a vulnerable child who is left on a busy street at night has no place to turn. This is what I think of when I have too much on my plate, or am uncomfortable with the task ahead of me.

I tell you this story not to sadden you, but rather to shake your board into finding their story.

What is their motivation for being involved? Too often, I hear from board members that they are too busy to attend meetings, have too much on their plates, or are uncomfortable with fundraising. These are frustrating comments to hear – especially as I think about John. In order to be successful as a board member, one must find the story that will motivate them to serve, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

The good news is John still finds his way to the Boys & Girls Club everyday. He is living in a group home with other young adults who have disabilities. He is now a Club volunteer and loves spending his time helping staff maintain the technology labs. The Club is a family for John, but the Club staff and kids also think of John as a part of their patchwork family.

I hope your board has the opportunity to one day find their story. It will change their lives and the lives of many others. When this story is found, the job of a board member becomes more than a series of meetings and tasks. It will be the catalyst for a better, more purposeful life for those you serve and those you love.

Mission-focused Mary

If you have some advice for the author of our anonymous letter, please be respectful and share it in the comment box at the bottom of this post.

If you want to submit an anonymous letter for consideration this month, please email it to me at the address in your signature block below.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. Dear Hoping for Change,
    I’ve been where you are. I learned that anytime I’m completed frustrated with a situation, its usually less about the incident at hand, and more about what I have allowed to happen that created the incident at hand.
    How is your Board currently developed? If you are in the Boys & Girls Club movement, BGCA has amazing resources to help you build your Board. They can help you improve systems and processes to change the way you and your Board recruit, train, educate and evaluate Board members. If you’re not in the movement, start with Boardsource, Eriks blog (for which I write the 1st Wednesday of the month Board post), and your local nonprofit resource center.
    In the meantime, I recommend that you share Board expectations during the recruitment process so that potential members can make an educated decision as to if they have the passion, capacity, time and the skills to meet the organizations’ expectation for service. If you don’t have written expectations, creating them is a great first step.
    Good luck,

    1. That is great advice, Dani. Thanks for weighing-in on this non-profit professional’s anonymous letter to their board volunteers. I hope you plan on doing the same for other similar letters throughout the month of May at DonorDreams blog!!!

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