Engaging your non-profit board volunteers more effectively

engagementBoard member engagement is a common thread running through many of my blog posts. This isn’t because I’m a broken record. The fact of the matter is that so many of the things that plague non-profits are simply “symptoms” of a bigger problem. Yep, you guessed it . . . the root cause of many of our challenges in the can be traced back to our boards.

So, a few days ago I received an email from Suzanne Culhane. I don’t know Suzanne, but she is a fundraising consultant for Bob Carter Companies. Apparently, one of my posts hit her just right, and she took to heart my frequent rally cry at the end of many of my posts to “. . . please share your thoughts . . . we can all learn from each other . . .”

So, in the spirit of complying with my own point of view, I’m going to use my bully pulpit this morning to share Suzanne’s tips on “How to get your board members to be more effective advocates for your cause“.

Here is what she recommends:

  • Only elect board members who are passionate about the mission and rank the organization as number one or two in terms of their own volunteer and philanthropic priorities.
  • Implement an annual give/get requirement end enforce it!  This is best done through an annual commitment form which includes personal fundraising goals and volunteer responsibilities (e.g. committee and event involvement).  This keeps board members focused on giving personally and asking others to do so.
  • Conduct an annual commitment review session should be conducted with each board member.  In addition to personal giving and fundraising, this individual meeting should also offer the opportunity to discuss the board member’s experience of serving, any unfulfilled interests, challenges and concerns.  That is, the organization must regularly invite individual feedback from leaders.
  • For empowerment, periodic interactive workshops should be conducted and all board members should be fully support by the staff in their undertakings on behalf of the organization.
  • Celebrate all accomplishments and victories as a team!  Organizational impact and fundraising results should be regularly shared with the board.

For the record, I love all of these ideas (except I waffle on the give/get policy and only suggest it when a board’s culture is devoid of philanthropy). I’ve personally used all of these suggestions when I was on the front line and as a consultant. They are best practices, and they work!

So, let’s keep this going. Sharing is fun. What else do you do at your agency to engage your board volunteers? Please use the comment box below to share your thoughts and experiences. Why? Yep, you guessed it . . . because we can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

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

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