It doesn’t matter whether you’re a new development director or one who’s been around the block a few times: board engagement can definitely be a challenge.
In fact, helping development offices keep their boards engaged and effective is a huge part of my work as a consultant.
So if you’re feeling frustrated with your board, don’t beat up on yourself. You’re most definitely not alone!
Getting and Keeping Your Board Engaged in 3 Steps
The good news is that getting and keeping your board engaged (including with fundraising) comes down to three steps:
1. Have one-on-one meetings.
First, make sure to hold a one-on-one meeting with each member of your board at least once a year.
This is an opportunity to get to know them and learn where their passions and interests lie, so ask open-ended questions like:
- Initially why did you decide to join our board?
- How are you enjoying your board experience so far?
- What do you feel is going well, and what could be improved?
You should also discuss ways they can be more involved with fundraising. I’ll get to that in a little further in this post.
2. Hold an annual board retreat.
A board retreat is a half or full-day long event where you, your executive director (and possibly a trained facilitator) will guide your board in setting strategic priorities, including funding and fundraising goals, for the coming year.
3. Prioritize fundraising at board meetings.
Make fundraising a priority at every board meeting by setting aside at least fifteen (15) minutes to talk about each member’s progress and to hold a mini-fundraising discussion or offer some quick training.
These three steps to board member engagement can feel like a tall order, particularly if your nonprofit has a disengaged board. But getting and keeping your board members engaged isn’t really that difficult once you’ve gotten the process rolling.
After They’re Engaged, What Next?
Now that you have them engaged, what do you want them to do?
Great question, particularly since you can’t expect every member of your board to be a superstar fundraiser! However, there are plenty of fundraising-related activities for board members to choose from:
- Opening Doors: Opening doors is a great way to utilize your board members. Ask each person to introduce their colleagues, friends, and family members to your nonprofit. The board member doesn’t even have to be present at any meetings or facility tours that take place — all you need is for them to help get the process started.
- Expressing Gratitude: Donors love (and deserve) appreciation, and they particularly love it when a board member makes the time to thank them. This recognition can come in a variety of ways: a handwritten note, an email, a phone call, even a lunch or dinner date with top donors. Here are 10 more ways to show donors gratitude.
- Showing Up: Each of your board members ought to attend most of your yearly events and spend at least some of their time at events thanking donors and sponsors personally.
- Asking: Finally, of course we want our board members to help raise major gifts, either by doing the ask or at least attending ask meetings to talk about your work.
I’m writing posts all year long to walk you through creating and facilitating effective board meetings and retreats, making fundraising less scary, and more accessible.
I’ll also tell you all of the ways you can encourage your board members to leverage their networks on your behalf — and most of all, I’ll show you how to make board service enjoyable.
This Week’s Task
Schedule personal meetings with each member of your board. Then, prepare for the meetings by writing several open-ended questions. And don’t forget to discuss ways they could help with fundraising!
What have you tried in the past to engage your board and what challenges have you faced? Tell me in the comments and I’ll be happy to offer some feedback.
This post is part of my Year of the Fundraising Board series. Check out the entire series to learn how to create a stronger, smarter, and super motivated nonprofit board.