by Molly Galo, Senior Consultant, HUB Philanthropic services
Recently, a friend who, as part of her new board member orientation went on a site visit to observe the mission in action, called me. She was confused. “I saw the need, and the impact of the services,” she said. “But I have no idea what they want me to do about it. What’s my call to action?” Her query highlighted a common pitfall of nonprofits, I think: we’re so grateful to have folks willing to serve on our boards, and to support us as donors, yet we often forget to ask their help in specific ways. We forget the calls to action.
Most nonprofits have clearly delineated board member expectations around meeting attendance, committee participation, and financial support. In addition to those stated expectations – which are critical to the organization’s health – it is important to engage board members in “between-board-meeting,” everyday calls to action. These actions can be quite simple. For example, my client, Pillars, ask our board members to wear their Pillars pin not just at Pillars events, but every day, out in the community. One board member, a physician, wears hers on her lab coat at work and reports that every single day, at least one person asks her about it. It’s a great conversation starter, and offers regular opportunities for her to talk about Pillars’ mission.
Another simple call to action: at the close of each board meeting, ask each member to vow to talk with just one person about your organization’s mission and work before the next meeting. You might even ask board members to share their experiences at subsequent board meetings. You’ll be surprised at the wonderful stories you’ll hear.
Calls to action around events are easy: when you have an upcoming fundraising event, ask your board members to host a table, or simply to rally 3-5 couples to attend the event. If your board members will commit to this, your circles of friends and eventually donors will grow exponentially.
Here in Illinois, a timely and critical call to action for human services agencies in particular is enlisting your board members and supporters in contacting their legislators on your organization’s behalf. Make it easy for your members: give them an email outlining the impact budget cuts will have on the people your organization serves. Be specific: how many people will be affected? And what will that mean for the larger community? Include a link to their legislators’ contact information: address, phone number, email address. If you’d like, give them a template letter they can personalize. Your members serve on the board because they believe in work you do. Don’t be afraid to ask them to advocate on your behalf.
Whatever your mission, calls to action amongst board members and supporters are critical. They can be quite simple, but they must be specific. As a staff member, commit to asking your board members in each interaction you have, to do something on behalf of your organization. Your board members will thank you for it. And your organization will thrive because of it.