Are You Bored With Your Board?
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines the term "bored" as something devoid of interest. Do you currently feel bored with your board? If so, I recommend a wake-up call.
Nonprofit organizations rely on their boards of directors to help reach, maintain or exceed expectations of success. Board members represent the external piece of a larger puzzle that involves administration, staff, volunteers, internal and external stakeholders, plus others over time. Board members are recruited, trained and engaged in a variety of ways. Many organizations have foundation/fundraising boards but do not know how to use their boards effectively. For a variety of reasons, some of you are simply bored with your board!
Foundation board members need to provide several key functions as leaders of an organization: to help set policies and see that the policies are carried out; ensure that the organization is financially stable and possibly thriving, not just surviving; work closely with organizational leadership and staff; define and clarify the mission; help develop a strategic plan and execute the plan; assist in fundraising and friendraising; act as ambassadors for the organization; and identify then recruit new board members to keep the juices flowing.
Many organizations fail to realize that a foundation/fundraising board needs to focus on raising funds! Many boards spend time determining how to invest monies or in nonproductive activities. Board members do not know their specific roles on the board. They meet rarely; do not have goals and objectives, written responsibilities, or term limits; and are not used in a proactive way. No wonder your members are bored with the organization. In today's reality, this situation is totally unacceptable. Organizations are attempting not to thrive, but survive, and need effective board members more than ever before.
To start anew, begin by communicating with your board members. Get to know them individually, and note their strengths and weaknesses. See what excites them with respect to the organization, and consider how to best use them for your success. Determine what committees you need and the profiles of members to generate new and effective services.
For example, a development committee is the cornerstone of your board. Recruit development committee members who are talented at identifying, rating, screening, soliciting and engaging prospects. Some individuals might have aptitude for storytelling, and others might be interested in determining institutional priorities in cooperation with staff. Strive to maximize the best use of your volunteers.
Some foundation board models include committees for development, finance, nominating, PR/marketing, clinical (if health care), education, research, programs, etc. Others have committees for annual gifts, major gifts, planned gifts and research/support services. To see what works for you, start with a basic committee structure and expand over time. Have board members report financial results at meetings so they develop ownership for results. If your organization has several staff members, assign each one responsibility for a specific committee.
As a coach, wouldn't you want to recruit the best players? As a nonprofit leader, you need to recruit the best board members in the community for financial and nonfinancial reasons. Look at business, government and nonprofit leaders. Determine what individuals can offer in time, talent and treasure. Try to balance diversity in all aspects of recruitment, and encourage representation by all constituencies of the organization, including those that benefit from its services. Do not forget young volunteers! They can tell the organizational story in unique ways.
To keep board members fresh, recruit with purpose. Make sure board members focus on their roles and responsibilities, which include dedication to the organization. Note their social and business relationships, which can expand over time. Allow board members to make important decisions, recruit others to serve and understand the organization’s case for support for fundraising.
These individuals should attend and participate in meetings, serve on committees enthusiastically, and embrace their roles as key ambassadors for the organization. To minimize burnout, have the board make a personal commitment to serve for a specific period of time, not forever.
In summary, as a staff member and leader of a foundation or fundraising board, take responsibility and be proud of your board. Take members on road trips to see similar, best-of-class organizations, and have your board members meet their peers from other organizations to share successes. And while you are a paid staff member, volunteer in other organizations to acquire greater insight on what volunteers need and want.
Write a booklet for board members that includes everything they need to know about the organization and what they’re supposed to do. Provide a master calendar, financial goals and objectives, and strive to continually engage board members in the organization.
Your goal is to make volunteers shine while you stand in the shadows. It is all about relationships! Use foundation/fundraising board meetings to rally enthusiasm. Know your board, and make sure board members know you. Conduct an annual needs assessment for your board members. Take steps to keep their perception of your fundraising program as strong as possible.
The bottom line: Do whatever you can to make your board members and organization successful, or they may get bored with you!
F. Duke Haddad is president of Duke Haddad & Associates. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.