Bold Leading Blog

Tips and Training for your Nonprofit

Does your board need life support?

Posted by David Sena on Jul 19, 2018 4:11:44 PM
David Sena


"I have spent so much time collecting data, making charts and writing reports that my eyes are bleeding and I want to crawl in a corner to cry."

"I have spent countless meetings trying to influence, cheer and encourage board members to fundraise, volunteer, or speak on our behalf."

If you are an executive director or nonprofit leader, I am sure you have felt something similar.  

I have prepared agendas and documents for over a hundred board meetings.  When I started to ask myself one key question, things began to change.   There was more momentum in each board meeting.  More board members wanted to help.

"Board members should want to read the board report, volunteer for the organization and tell others about the great work we do."

I don’t know how much time I have spent trying to figure out how to get the board to be more active. How can I get my board to care more about what we do? How can I get them to fundraise?

I have tried sending emails and mail. I have submitted reports 2 weeks in advance. I have had them hand delivered. You name the way. I have done it.

"I thought when we recruited the board, they would automatically get to work and help our organization. Why are they making our work more difficult?"

I wanted to scream, “Don’t they get it?! Don’t board members want to help?”

Then I remembered my CPR Training. When you need someone to call 911, you point to a specific person, look them in the eye and tell them to call 911.

I started to treat board members as individual people who wanted to help.  

Board members are volunteers and donors. I would ask myself this question,

“If I knew a board member was able to write a check for $5400, how would I treat them?”

Of course, that is what each board member is doing. They are giving on average 5400 minutes every three years as a board member.

I needed to make it convenient for them to read board reports. I needed to make it simple to know what is next and how they can make a big difference.

If I wanted them to read board reports, I reached out to each board member by name through mail and email. I would also encourage calling each member to give them a quick synopsis of what is coming.

Instead of assuming “the board should fundraise,” I started to ask specific board members to fundraise. I had one banker that was willing to invite six or seven colleagues to come for breakfast and a tour of our facility. Another board member was ready to write thank you notes. Another one was willing to speak at a local service club.

I soon began to treat each board member as a $5400 donor that needed VIP treatment.  

Make Your Donors Happy

I called regularly. When board meetings had topics that I knew would be particularly interesting to them, I would highlight the issue in an email to them or call them.

At each board meeting, I would share the impact individual board members are having. A small buzz was starting to form. Board members wanted to do more.

Not everyone and not all the time.

My mentor used to tell me board members would perform less than okay, better than okay and just okay.

I remembered each board member was a living breathing human that had ups and downs and was volunteering their time. I could give them grace while still encouraging them to do things they enjoyed and do them well.

I encouraged board members to have a 90-day goal. Then I concentrated on crucial performers, challenged others to try new things, and applauded all the efforts and the results as much as I could.

I treated them all like $5400 donors.

If you want people to surprise you with greatness. Honor them with individual attention.

If you need more tips to help your board get involved, download our 

10 Ways to Improve Your Board Involvement








Topics: Better Boards, Fundraising

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