If you are like many nonprofit professionals, you may be frustrated by the performance (or lack thereof) from your board members.
However, it might be your fault that your board members are underperforming!
- Does your nonprofit have expectations for its board members?
- Are those expectations written down?
- Does each board member know and understand what is expected of them?
- Do they agree with those expectations?
- What are your expectations?
No Expectations? No Worries…
If you don’t currently have formal expectations, don’t worry. You’re not alone. However, the sooner you do implement formal expectations, the easier you’ll find it to identify and recruit board members who are willing and able to help with fundraising.
Also, if you’re frustrated, you may have unrealistic expectations for board members. Remember, your board members are volunteers! They have other priorities, such as careers, family, and other charities.
Part of what has gotten me a reputation of being a no-nonsense consultant is my ability to take complicated a topic, like fundraising, and break it down into simple, achievable tasks. Once I’ve done that, the organizations with which I work get the tools necessary to hold their board members accountable for those tasks. It starts with 100% participation (every board member makes a personal contribution).
Remember the phrase: Give AND Get. Board members contribute and help with fundraising. It’s not either/or.
When I facilitate a board retreat, I focus on finding doable tasks for board members so they can be successful. Telling board members to help with “fundraising,” and then not providing them with specific tasks is a recipe for disaster.
It all begins with your expectations. Realistic expectations.
Top 6 Expectations for your Board Members
Here are my top 6 expectations for board members, broken down into simple tasks.
1. Make a personal contribution.
Your board members should make a financial contribution of meaningful size at the beginning of every year. This can range from just $100 to over a million dollars.
2. Share networks and open doors.
Your board members should be willing to share their list of contacts, helping you to identify new friends for your organization. Provide a specific goal, such as: Make one new introduction per month.
3. Be a good advocate.
Your board members should talk about your organization with anyone who is interested, sharing their passion. They should be able to invite them for a tour, to an event, or even to go out for coffee with the executive director. Again, be responsible for one relationship building activity per month.
4. Invite others to contribute.
Your board members should ask people to make a contribution through an appeal letter, to the annual fund, or to a specific event or program. Board members can help make a minimum of ten “asks” per year by signing annual fund letters to their friends, bringing people to your special events, and making face-to-face solicitations.
5. Say thank you.
Your board members should be willing to make calls and send thank you letters to your top donors. They should also thank donors in-person whenever possible and appropriate.
6. Actively participate at all meetings.
Your board members should not only be expected to attend meetings, but they should contribute to the discussion. Lend their expertise. That’s why they were asked to join the board in the first place.
For more on getting the most out of your board, take a look at 50 Asks in 50 Weeks: A Guide to Better Fundraising for Your Small Development Shop. It includes a sample board member job description, as well as a sample expectation form.
What kinds of challenges have you faced in working with your board? Are your expectations realistic? Share your experiences in the comments.