This past week I spoke on a teleconference workshop about tools to engage boards to support fundraising auctions. Many of the 50+ organizations who signed up indicated that their board members are not fully engaged in outreach events and fundraising. Does this mean they have the wrong board members? Do they need to define roles and expectations? Or do board members actually need some training? I find it’s a bit of each. Whether you are a for-profit or nonprofit, your Board of Directors is a critical component of how you connect to the communities and constituencies you serve. They need to be supporting your brand in multiple ways. How can you help them do this?
Board members need to know their financial role.
As we all know from the recent financial meltdown, governing boards were blamed for taking their eye off the ball. What are you doing to be sure your board knows its role and its responsibilities when it comes to fundraising and financial oversight? Prospective board members should be clear on the requirements of their role. They need to know the hours of the commitment, the dollars they will be expected to give or raise, and how they can help you propel the mission. They also need to feel comfortable with nonprofit financial statements, which can look very different than corporate ones. New board members should have an orientation to remind them of their roles and help them with tools in the areas where they are the least comfortable (i.e. making an “ask” for your organization). Even experienced board members need refreshers, especially if you have an important event coming up or a major campaign.
Board members need to see the goalposts.
Board members need more than the annual report. They need specifics. If you’re holding an auction, what is your fundraising goal? What happens if you don’t meet it? What are your most important programs? What outcomes will determine your success?
Board members need to learn about your brand.
Board members are obviously committed volunteers, but sometimes they are connected to your organization through only one pathway (i.e. a child with a disease that you are trying to cure, a son at your school, as a professional member of your association, etc.) They need to be briefed on the big picture about your brand promise to all of your “customers,” including the experience you promote for your donors, your staff and your other volunteers. They need to be able to easily talk about your “elevator pitch” and connect it to their own experience with your organization. Give them talking points. Let them practice on one another. This way, your board members can be better—and more comfortable—cheerleaders.
Board members need recognition.
Board members need more than their names on the masthead. They need to be publicly thanked when they do a good job of supporting your mission. When involved board members receive thanks and recognition—whether it’s for a report well-researched or getting out more volunteers for your walkathon—then other volunteers are more inclined to give you their time, talents and money.
Engaging boards can be a challenge, but it’s one worth the effort. When they are part of a team with staff, the winner is your mission. Do you have a good story to share about supporting boards? Please share it!