7 Steps to Get Your Board Reconnected, Re-engaged and Enthusiastic
Have your board members lost their enthusiasm? Have they lost their energy to create change and make a difference? Have they checked out? Nonprofit boards can’t run on fumes. You have to keep their motors primed—or they really will run out of steam.
But keeping that energy level up isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Here’s my recipe for change, renewing enthusiasm and firing up these lovely people who care so much about your cause.
Seven Steps to Take Your Board from Bored to Blazing:
1. Ask them to share their personal stories. The quickest way to fan the flames of board members’ passion for the cause is asking them why they care. Try this mingle exercise with your board—or simply go around the table and ask people to share their stories.
2. Help them understand where the money is going. Real numbers can really motivate board members. Plan to discuss questions such as:
- Why does it cost so much?
- Why do we need to spend money on this or that?
- How much does it cost to help one kid (clean one stream, present one performance, etc.).
- And most importantly: What do we need the MOST but don’t have money for?
Once you help them understand the urgent work and why it needs to happen—and how donations will be used, specifically—you may see a real turnaround in their enthusiasm and level of commitment to making it happen. I’ve seen it happen.
3. Connect them to your real work. Try cancelling your next board meeting and taking your board on a field trip instead. Take them out into the field, on to the stage, or into the lab or the classroom. Give them a direct, personal experience of the amazing change the organization is creating in the world. Bring mission moments into your meetings.
4. Liven up your meetings. Call it "Death by PowerPoint." It’s what happens when you require board members to listen passively to presentation after presentation rather than engage in vital discussions around important issues. Reorganize your agenda to put the boring stuff last rather than first. Make committee reports only two minutes each. Create a consent agenda, and be sure to give your board chair training in meeting facilitation. And check out this post for some other tips and tricks.
5. Give board members what they want. What they want is meaningful work that will actually help the organization. June Bradham’s research in her book “The Truth About What Nonprofit Boards Really Want” blew my mind:
Board members want to:
- Work with people who are as passionate and excited about the organization as they are.
- Feel that their time is used wisely.
- Get their hands dirty with real work.
- Meet the other board members.
6. Give them social time. Social time helps foster closer personal relationships among your board members. And that creates a sense of trust among the people who run your nonprofit. I can’t think of anything more important! That’s why coffees and lunches before and after meetings are so important. Be sure to build optional social time into your regular meeting agenda.
7. Focus them on action items. What do your board members need to do in order to be good board members? Figure that out for yourself first, and then be sure to share those goals with them. I like to see board members equipped with actions they are supposed to take—whether it is calling five donors to say thank you, or introducing five new people to your organization, or selling five tickets, or opening the door to an important connection, or advocating for your nonprofit at a community forum, or researching roofers so you can get a new roof donated. Send them out the door with a clear idea of what they need to do between now and the next board meeting.
The bottom line is there’s lots you can do to rev up the energy and enthusiasm of your board.
(Want more ideas? I'll be running a webinar—"7 Steps to Fire Up Your Board"—today from 2 to 3:30 p.m. ET. There's still time to register. Sign up here!)