Are Your Board Members Bored? How to Inspire, Excite and Direct Your Board to Success
OK, you got the idea of inspiration. Let’s turn to:
I’ve been on a number of boards, and there is nothing worse than sitting through two or three hours of minutiae that doesn’t have to be done with 15 to 20 people sitting around a table. All of the boring stuff should be done beforehand. Make committees for these issues, and bring the highlights to the board meetings. Committee chairs make the case and the whole board votes. Done. Next subject …
I really think the goal of the executive director and the board chair is to figure out, before the board meeting, how they can make that board meeting as exciting as possible. Why? Because everyone else’s board meetings are awful, and if you’re meeting rocks, you’ll have no problem recruiting good board members. Here is what it’s going to take:
- Do all the work in committees—this is where everything should be happening. And the committees can be both functional (finance, development, HR, etc.) and project driven (Where do we build the next shelter? How can we expand the school? How do we partner with more countries in building water wells?). All of those “projects” can be committees that have a short life span. Then, you’re done and you go onto something else.
- Keep the actual board meeting to one hour—you heard me. If you’ve ever been a board member yourself, how often have you dreaded going because you know it’s going to go on forever and be a total snooze fest? Exactly. If you have everyone doing the work in the committee and you’ve passed all the information board members need prior to the meeting, this should be doable.
- Make sure you have term limits—oh my goodness, how many boards do you know with members with 10, 15 and even 20 years of service? Let God bless them … then bless them right out. Seriously, this is why term limits are so important. If you have an exciting board, people will want to be on it anyway. Keep it fresh.
Do you understand what I mean about exciting? Good. Finally, let’s turn to being directive.
One problem I see with nonprofit leadership is that they think the board should be “just doing stuff” for you. Then, everyone gets uptight because no one is doing stuff. The nonprofit staff is frustrated and the board members are either lost or angry because they are not sure what their role really is.
I was talking to one organization a few months ago about a major gift development committee meeting, and they said everyone just sat around talking about the last football game because no one had anything to report on. Eventually after about 45 minutes, committee members started packing up and said, “see you next month.”
Next month? What are people even working on? No one knew and no one gave direction.
To all you nonprofit leaders and board chairs out there: You have to give board members direction!
Yes, they are so willing to help, but the vast majority of board members want to be told how they can help you. Just like asking the donor for a gift, ask your board member to take on something specific. And when you do that, guess what? They do it! It’s an amazing thing that happens. People in general want to be told what to do. If you can give clear direction with solid outcomes and due dates, you will see action. Without those, you will only witness floundering.
So there you have it. Inspire, excite and direct your board into greatness. Everyone wins!
Jeff Schreifels is the principal owner of Veritus Group — an agency that partners with nonprofits to create, build and manage mid-level fundraising, major gifts and planned giving programs. In his 32-plus year career, Jeff has worked with hundreds of nonprofits, helping to raise more than $400 million in revenue.