Keeping Board Members Engaged

Posted on Wednesday, May 07, 2014

It is not uncommon for nonprofit board members to become disengaged.  Organizations may have board members that have gradually drifted away and don’t even show up for board meetings anymore.  How do you keep board members engaged?

1.       Recruit good people.  An ideal board member is passionate about your organization and has skills that will help your organization succeed.  You want someone that wants to serve the community as opposed to building up his/her resume. 

2.       Set expectations.  Knowing what is expected will better allow potential board members to determine if your organization is a good fit for them.  Set expectations on responsibilities, time commitment, attendance, fund raising requirements and committee service. 

3.       Orientation.  Start new board members off right with an orientation on both the organization and the board.  Include information about the organization’s programs, finances, history, strategic direction, and organizational structure.  Also discuss board roles and operations.

4.       Set term limits.  Term limits allow for new perspectives and fresh ideas.  Many organizations use a 3 year term with a maximum of 2 terms.  Using a staggered system allows for continuity while gaining new members. 

5.       Improve board meetings.  Listening to repetitive reports is not a constructive way of using limited meeting time or valuable board members’ time.  Utilize a consent agenda for routine items so that the majority of the meeting can be spent on more meaningful items.  Also, always start meetings on time and end on time.

6.       Provide opportunities to get involved.  Board members lose interest if they are not challenged and able to utilize their skills.  These individuals agreed to be on your board because they wanted to get involved.  Let them.  Provide opportunities to engage board members beyond monthly board meetings.

7.       Mission moments.  Create opportunities for board members to experience your mission in action.  Have board members visit with the organization’s program recipients, and have them give a brief summary of their experience at the board meeting.  Or ask a client to the board meeting to share a story about how the organization has made a difference in his/her life.

8.       Let burned out members leave.  People’s lives change.  They may become overworked at their day job or face personal issues at home.  Requiring burned out members to continue to serve provides no benefit for anyone.  Let them take a leave of absence or an early leave from their term and hope that they will someday return.

Posted by: Carrie Minnich, CPA

Posted in Mission Minded Nonprofits

Disclaimer: The information contained in Dulin, Ward & DeWald’s blog is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice on any subject matter. Before taking any action based on this information, we strongly encourage you to consult competent legal, accounting or other professional advice about your specific situation. Questions on blog posts may be submitted to your DWD representative.

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