A board of directors is essential to the success of a nonprofit, as they weigh in on the organization’s major decisions and activities. However, members of the board often have their own day jobs and responsibilities to attend to, making it difficult to stay connected to the cause.
Fortunately, there are ways the executive director (ED) can keep board members engaged and involved without putting too much on their plate.
From altering meetings to implementing regular communications, follow along for tips to keep board members motivated and excited about the nonprofit’s mission.
1. Encourage Involvement.
Because interactions with the board can be few and far between, it’s the job of the ED to encourage regular involvement with your nonprofit.
- Have the board meet other staff members. It seems so simple, but this isn’t as common as you’d think, considering the board of directors is often remote. Set a date to have board members come into the office to shake hands and introduce themselves. This will allow the board to see operations in action.
- Place importance on the infrequent opportunities the board has for in-person communication. You’re more likely to get commitment from a board member in a one-on-one conversation than in an email, because emails are easy to ignore or miss. Use your face time wisely and ask directly for participation.
- Use nonprofit technology to finalize communications. To follow up in-person communication, utilize technology. Set reminders to send personalized emails and calendar invitations to board members for various events. By creating an open, communicative environment where everyone is involved, individuals will feel more compelled to participate going forward.
2. Have an “Ask.”
By preparing the board of directors before a board meeting takes place, they will know what you’re going to ask of them.
- Tell board members exactly what you need. Make it a habit to create detailed lists of what you need from the board. This approach limits confusion because board members will understand precisely what the organization is lacking. Less confusion means more opportunity for someone to step up and offer their help.
- Include your “asks” in the agenda. Prior to a board meeting, send out the agenda with your needs clearly stated. With ample notice, board members can come to the meeting prepared with resources and ways to get involved.
3. Show, Don’t Tell.
When a board meeting seems more like a “bored” meeting, it’s likely that members are unengaged and unenthused. It’s crucial for the ED to find ways to liven up meetings.
- Bring a guest speaker. Whether it’s a client, donor, volunteer, or someone passionate about your cause, invite a guest speaker to share how they have benefited from your nonprofit. This will demonstrate to board members the impact your nonprofit has on the community, and inspire them to get involved.
- Excite and delight. Board meetings can be entertaining– and even fun. Before you dive into discussion, participate in a team building exercise, or offer snacks to attendees. In doing so, board members will feel compelled to come back week after week.
4. Recruit Top Talent.
Finding the right board members for your nonprofit takes time. Be selective in who you choose to represent the board by recruiting passionate people who are motivated by your cause.
- Set clear expectations. Before a new member agrees to sit on the board, define his or her responsibilities. Don’t be vague. It’s important that potential board members understand the time and energy required to hold this position. If this means you lose interested prospects, so be it. The board needs to know your expectations for involvement when accepting a position.
- Seek help. Ask existing board members to assist you in the recruiting process. This is one way to encourage involvement among current members, and demonstrate to prospective recruits the duties required of them.
If you keep these tips in mind and act on them whenever possible, your board members are more likely to stay excited about your mission.
For more practical tips about communicating with your board and other constituents, download the free guide, “Organizing Chaos: A Guide to Effective Nonprofit Communication.”