Why bother with your board?
BECAUSE: The board cues the Executive Director how to behave. Your board members will be the largest contributing factor to whether or not you can take your organization to the next level. Even if you plan and follow through to the letter, if your board does not help you fundraise, there is little you can truly accomplish long term.
The board must have a clear understanding of ethics, governance and accountability. They are fiscally accountable for the organization if it fails, yet have no fiscal reward if it succeeds. This in itself creates a situation where board members must have different reasons for wanting to see the organization succeed.
Board members are responsible for listening to the community, for strategic planning, for hiring, firing and evaluating the Executive Director, for policies and procedures, and most importantly, for fundraising.
Your board needs to be making leadership gifts, and giving their friends reasons to give to your organization. Your leadership needs to be recognized and fostered, especially by board members, for your nonprofit to succeed.
Board Member Issues You May Have Noticed:
Burnout/Checked out-They come to board meetings but they are not commenting, not adding anything. How to engage this board member? See if you can corner them before or after the board meeting, and ask how they got involved with the organization. See if you can bring out their passion for the mission. Find out what they would be willing to do, if they had time.
Critical- They come to board meetings but are completely critical, not tuned in to the mission. At least these people have energy to criticize! Talk with them. Ask them what they would like, what would make the organization better. See if you can find some common ground. Encourage free discussion on the board. The more they show up and argue, the more buy-in you have for their participation.
Absentee- Not there, period. Does not answer emails or phone calls.This is trickier. Find out who asked them to be board members. See if they will answer that person’s call. Figure out what is preventing them from coming to meetings. And write into board bylaws if any board member misses three unexcused meetings, they are automatically off the board.
Clueless- They don’t understand what being on a board means. See if you can set up a meeting with the Executive Director, or Board Chair, or both, or if that doesn’t work, meet with them alone, and educate them about what being on a board means, what is really going on with the organization.
How to deal with all of these types:
Sit down with the board member. Ask them what would make it fun for them to come back to the board meetings. Then offer to do just that. Begin and end each board meeting with a way your non-profit has helped this month.
Here are some sample board expectations. Board members are responsible for:
- Making a gift which is significant for them
- Bringing in $500 per year
- Deciding the direction of the organization
- Showing up to 90% of board meetings
- Serving on a committee (budget, fundraising, marketing, etc)
- Here’s a powerful solution: To ensure a responsive board, insist each prospective board member serve on the Development Committee before becoming full fledged board members.
Get Board members to have some involvement in cultivating donors. Everyone can do something.
- A board member can make a call to a friend to tell them about your nonprofit.
- A board member can sign a thank you letter for a donation.
- A board member can help with the decor committee for your event.
- A board member can be on-site for a foundation visit to see if they will award you a grant.
Want to recruit more board members?
Here’s a resource on finding new board members: Who do you need on your board and how can you get them there?
And a website to post your board job descriptions: BoardnetUSA
Written by: Mazarine Treyz. March, 2012. Mazarine Treyz is the author of the Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising, called one of the top 10 books of 2010 by Beth Kanter, author of The Networked Nonprofit and CEO of Zoetica. Mazarine is a fundraising consultant and enjoys teaching comprehensive fundraising webinars at CharityHowTo. If you’d like to take a webinar and learn more about board volunteer fundraising strategies, you can register here.