Awaken Your Board Members' Passion with this Powerful Exercise
Would you like to pep up your board members, re-engage them in your mission and awaken the passion they feel for your cause?
Would you like to build each board member's sense of "team" and bring them closer together as a group?
Would you like to reconnect them with the reason they're taking the time out of their busy lives to serve on the board?
Would you like to help them get to know each other and bond in a deeper way?
Here's an exercise that can accomplish these important objectives in about 15 minutes.
Ask them why they care
Board members rarely get to talk about why they care so much about your cause. Helping them discuss this can change everything. It can open their hearts and raise up their deepest feelings.
And when you awaken people's passion for causes they are passionate about, they can change the world. They get unstuck, and remember what's most important, why they are there and what needs to be done.
I do many board retreats around the globe and I always, always start off with this simple exercise. And board members love it! They love the conversation. They love connecting with their colleagues. Their energy goes up. They loosen up. And they are far more ready to get to work!
Here's what you do. Ask them this simple question: "Why do you personally care about our organization?"
It's a pretty unusual question because board members don't often get a chance to talk about why they care. They're too busy doing business and being efficient. In the interest of using their time wisely, we often don't take the time to go deeper and touch their hearts.
We rarely ask them about their own story.
Here's how I set up this most important conversation so that no one is self conscious or feels put on the spot. It's a casual "mingle exercise." Board members just mingle around the room and share their own perspective with other trustees.
How to set this exercise up:
1. Ask your board members what they would say if someone asked them why they cared enough to serve on this board. If they ran into someone at work or socially, what would they say?
2. Give them a few moments to write down some notes to themselves.
3. Then tell them, "In just a minute we'll ask everyone in the room to stand up, find a partner, and share these thoughts with their partner."
4. Explain the exercise:
- You'll find a partner.
- Introduce yourself in case he or she doesn't know you well.
- Then share your story.
- Each person should take about 30 seconds.
- I'll keep time and call out "Change partners!" when it's time to find another partner.
5. Then launch them: "Everybody up!" Have them stand up, find someone to talk to, and share their perspective briefly with four other board members, one after the other.
How to debrief when everyone is finished:
Ask these questions:
- What was their experience like?
- What were they saying?
- How were they being?
- Was it easy or difficult?
- Was it fun or awful?
- What did you learn from other board members?
I love this exercise for so many reasons. It's informal. It's fun. And it's remarkably productive on multiple levels:
- When the board members talk repeatedly about what sparks their enthusiasm for your organization's work, they are re-igniting their own passion as they speak.
- The board members also learn from other board members.
- They get great energy from the other folks in the room; and they enjoy themselves.
When you do this exercise, you'll be surprised by the excitement and fun that it generates. You'll see people laughing and smiling.
Board members love to talk to each other and they rarely get the chance. It's a great energy boost and refreshing shift away from boring board meetings. And it's the best morale booster I've ever seen.
I'll bet that if you do this before a meeting, you'll find that it's one of the best meetings you've ever had with this group. At least that's what some of my fundraising friends say who have put this conversation in front of their board.