An engaged board can be essential to the success of your nonprofit. Board members develop strategies, and they also act as ambassadors and advocates for your organization. If they are engaged, their work becomes more passionate and ultimately more valuable to you and your entire organization.
To get off on the right foot, you need to set up your board strategically and look for volunteers with the skills or connections you need. To make this process easier, consider creating a profile for each of your volunteers in a database. Then, when you need a new board member, you can easily search through your profiles to find what you need. Alternatively, draft descriptions of what you want in a board member and have volunteers submit applications explaining why they would be a good choice.
Make New Members Welcome
The beginning of a new board member’s term can set the tone for their relationship with your nonprofit. To welcome new board members, consider hosting a social event with the board or even just having a short time for introductions at the beginning of the new member’s first meeting. Also, spend some time getting new board members up to speed on what the board is currently doing.
Have a Vision Statement
A clear vision statement is essential for marketing and fundraising, but it’s also a critial tool for board engagement. Make sure that everyone is aware of your vision statement, and refine it as needed. If board members don’t know what they’re fighting for, they can’t fight as hard.
Keep Board Members in the Loop
To keep board members informed about what’s happening at your nonprofit, try to keep in touch with them in between board meetings. Consider using tools such as Google Apps for Nonprofits to share information about news or challenges related to your nonprofit. For example, if you run a dog shelter and your community has just proposed a new law that may affect your organization, your board members should hear about it. Knowing about challenges helps to keep the passion burning among your board members.
However, if your board members only hear about challenges, they may start to feel overwhelmed. To combat volunteer fatigue, also remember to keep your board members updated on successes. Regularly send out stories about the people your organization has helped; focus on successes that directly relate to work that the board has done.
Run Meetings Efficiently
At the end of a meeting, most board members want to feel like they’ve truly accomplished something and have outlined a path for moving forward. They don’t want to feel like they’ve spent hours debating with no actionable results. To make the most of your meetings, consider creating a detailed agenda and having a strong facilitator who can help keep debate on track and steer the board members toward decisions. If you choose your board members carefully, foster a sense of community within the board, and focus on keeping meetings productive, your board members should feel more engaged. Ultimately, your organization will reap the benefit of that engagement and excitement.