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“Our board is useless!”

“My board is lazy.”

“Her board does not fundraise.”

“His board is not committed.”

” This board does not care about what’s happening inside our organization.”

I cannot count how many times I have heard nonprofit officers like Executive Directors and Vice Presidents refer to their boards this way. No doubt there are truths to so many of these situations. But who really is responsible to make sure boards are excited, passionate, and charged-up ambassadors for the organizations they serve?

Ideally, we want individuals to come to board service with a an internal, built in rah-rah attitude and approach to the work. At meetings we want chants of “we are the champions” from committed souls ready to dive right in to advocate, govern, open doors, fundraise, and show-up in the biggest way.

Initially most new members are excited and ready to roll up their sleeves and get right to it. But unless, your new member is a professional at serving on boards, he or she may not know what to expect and what to do first. And even if they do, each board is different, and the learning curve could be steep without proper guidance from the very beginning. How he or she is onboarded, empowered, and engaged will determine involvement and retention.

Our boards are not engaged, because we are not doing a good job at engaging them.

But whose job is it to nurture and embolden these ideally high-energy performers? THE BUCK STOPS AT THE TOP! Board and Governance Chairs. Executive Directors. Executive Staff.

It’ll take a New York minute to turn off, dissuade, and de-energize members when they are not first; Efficiently onboarded with proper orientation and training, second; Made to feel welcomed and included into the culture and third;, Treated as valuable members who each have a unique voice and a huge role to play in your nonprofits future.

Here are a few short and sweet as chocolate chips bites for Board and Governance and Executive Directors that will keep your board members engaged and eager for more time and work to support your mission:

Plan a warm welcome for new board members by inviting staff and a few funders to come and meet them at a social. Include messages on social media highlighting “Who’s New and Onboard” to help lead your organization into the future. Ask them to repost the announcement to their networks. Include their photos on the website and in the next newsletter.

From the onset, communicate often enough to stay on the radar but keep messages short and sweet.

Provide ample notice for meeting changes and send reminders via text and email.

Host meetings at times and locations that are convenient for all members.

At the beginning of each meeting, add some social time for personal interaction and mingling.

Open meetings with mission moments. Invite staff to come to share the good news that will remind board members how they are making a difference in the community and world.

Distribute minutes and reports in a timely manner. Keep data and reports simple, consistent, and accurate.

Address issues as they arise. Be transparent, accessible, and ready to hear possible solutions. Accept assistance and suggestions.

Encourage committees to meet in between meetings to make sure there are plentiful opportunities to utilize skills sets, passions, and talents of board members.

Make available industry news, business challenges and, most importantly, organization successes.

Make sure they are apprised of weekly needs and give them opportunities to complete small tasks to help them feel needed and valued.

Just like we steward our major donors, so too should our board members be cultivated to assure that we really understand why they want to serve, what they have to offer, and how we can meet them where they are in their busy lives.

Train them and watch them soar!

No more pointing fingers. Nonprofit leaders must step up and model the kind of behavior they would like to see and expect from their boards. Welcome them. Train them. Engage Them. Challenge Them. Empower Them. And watch them soar!

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