Former Board Members—An Overlooked Nonprofit Resource
My wife Cindy was a dedicated and student-focused teacher of elementary school children. For many years she taught in the Lawrence Township School System in the Indianapolis area. Both of my children were educated in Lawrence Township public schools and are excellent examples of what a public-school education can provide.
Because I always supported my family and had years of nonprofit management experience, I decided to serve on the Lawrence Township School Foundation as a board member for several years and eventually president of the foundation. I was proud to lead the foundation in the early 90s. At that time, we had a very dedicated board of approximately 28 members.
Fast forward to the present time. My wife retired from teaching in the Lawrence Township school district. We downsized and moved to another school district in the Indianapolis area. I had not stayed in touch with the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township or the Lawrence Township School Foundation. I recently received an invitation to the Lawrence Township School Foundation’s President Emeritus and Founders Lunch at a Lawrence Township educational facility. Even though I had been out of the loop of that educational system for years, I decided to attend to learn about where the school system was heading, plus see old friends and colleagues.
When I arrived, I was met by current Lawrence Township Foundation staff, a former superintendent who was superintendent when I was on the board, plus the current superintendent of Lawrence Township Schools. I also engaged with several former foundation board presidents. Some of these individuals I had known for some time and others I did not know.
It was a very engaging and emotional lunch, and I learned about the foundation’s past and present, plus where the school district was heading. The fact is, I love children and education. This event brought back many memories and stimulated in renewing my interest in supporting the foundation financially and with advice. The experience also made me think about the fact that many organizations forget former board members once their term limits expire. What a waste of potential continual resources.
Front Range Source noted that she was about to rotate off a board and expected the organization to forget her. The author believes you should keep former board members engage immediately when they leave the board because they know the organization, have invested in the organization, probably increased their giving level over time and may want to continue the organization connection. The author suggests that you ask former board members how they want to be communicated with in the future, tailor all communications to this group, recognize their giving and ask every former board member to consider a bequest gift. Don’t let past board members slip away.
Jay Love, fo-founder and chief relationship officer at Bloomerang, would like to know if you treat former board members like fine wine or just ignore them? He feels you should have a plan in place for past board members that include invitations for them to serve on committees or special projects, such as a capital campaign; endowment campaign; any emergency; opportunity to expand the mission; or engagement in a special event. Former board members provide organizational history, passion, wisdom and leadership for legacy giving.
MemberMan emphasizes that the value to the organization doesn’t stop when one leaves a board position. The blog suggests that former board members be asked to serve on an advisory board, join new committees, receive inside information, focus on listening to them and never let former board members feel neglected.
Based upon my recent personal experience in attending a special event, I thank the Lawrence Township Foundation staff for inviting me to the event and making me feel special. All of us that work with boards work very hard constantly to identify potential board members, recruit new board members, cultivate, plus promote orientation and provide the best experience possible for active board members. Yet, how many of us can truly say we put the same extra effort in keeping former board members feeling special and appreciated on an ongoing basis. I for one will go back to the drawing board and think about ways to renew a spark in my organization’s former board members. I suggest you do the same!
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.