• Nonprofit Learning Lab

Are You A Taker? 7 Ways to Give Back To Your Board

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

This is a guest blog and is posted with permission from Cindi Phallen of Possibility CP.


How are you feeling about your nonprofit board these days? Are you wondering why they aren’t raising more money? Are you wishing they showed up to more meetings? Do you secretly think they aren’t sharing their expertise with you the way you wish they would?


Here’s another question for you: what have you done for them lately?


If you’ve ever volunteered, you know the experience can be very rewarding! As long as you’re appreciated and the experience is providing you with some value. Remember – if you want your board members to be engaged, YOU must engage them.


Here are 7 ways to give back to your board, instead of just taking:


1. Teach them a new skill. It could be related to how to raise money or how to be an effective community ambassador, for example. When you look at the expectations you have for them, be sure to equip them for success; don’t assume they already know how to be successful.


2. Empower them with a sense of pride. They are part of an essential leadership team. When was the last time you allowed them to govern and got out of the way? They are responsible for the success of the organization and they have earned the right to be proud of their accomplishments.


3. Provide them with a deeper understanding of your important social issue. Whether your cause is related to homelessness, seniors, animals or kids, your board members appreciate having a deep knowledge of the issue and how you solve it. Be generous with the information you share with them to sustain their inspiration.


4. Remind them how valuable their servant leadership is. They likely came to you initially because they care deeply about your cause and want to make a difference. This is your golden opportunity to show them what an important impact they are making.


5. Allow them to showcase their company while supporting your cause. Perhaps they could host a donor appreciation event. Or you could conduct a brown bag lunch for their employees. Ask them what might be of interest and get creative about these win-win opportunities.


6. Focus on relationships. One of the top reasons volunteers stay on boards over time, is because of the relationships they form. Don’t underestimate the social aspect of broadening their networks and making new friends.


7. Provide leadership opportunities. This is a big one – are you giving each person an opportunity to optimize their potential? They may want to take on a formal role and become an officer or committee chair. They may prefer to mentor a new member or manage a project behind the scenes. Most of the time, your volunteers will rise to the occasion when you need them.


BONUS TIP: Imagine having this discussion at a board meeting. Ask them to list the benefits of board service. Fill in any missing items from above and then do some celebrating about what a phenomenal leadership team you have! You may realize there is some opportunity to enhance their experience in some way and give back to your board – and you will no longer be a taker.

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