Getting Board Members to Give
My perspective on boards is unique both in its optimism and its frustration. As a for-profit consultant helping nonprofits create a great experience for their board members, I see the tremendous opportunities if a few important pieces are brought into alignment. But as a nonprofit board member myself, I am often left unsatisfied by my experience, lose my passion and find my eyes wandering to another board on which I could do more good - and have more fun.
Over the last few years, my firm has conducted best practices research about what factors lead to success in fundraising. Any guess what the No. 1 indicator is? How much the governing board gives.
If this is the case - and we've found it to be so across the board, regardless of industry - then why don't we do more to create the best possible environment in which boards can work? Why are we forever asking, "What can my board do for me?" instead of, "What can I do with my board?"
This question led me to a second round of research in which I interviewed high-value board members from around the world. Where our best practices collected data, this research effort collected experiences, and remarkably, both studies found the same thing: an engaged, happy board gives more. Combining the results from both led me to discover the nine truths about what nonprofit board members really want from their experience.
Board members want:
1. Stellar board makeup
They want to like and respect those with whom they serve. They want to feel comfortable but challenged, part of a team yet surrounded by people they admire.
2. Passion for the cause
While who else serves on the board was noted more often than any other driver, a close second was passion. And, while passion can certainly grow over time, recruiting someone to the board with name and network but no passion all but guarantees an empty seat.