Board Engagement – How engaged are they? Do you have a plan?   

board of directors 2

by Tim Kennedy, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

As we head into the holiday season, I often ask myself how engaged am I in the season? Am I focused on the importance of it all and the true meaning? Or do I find myself getting caught up in the numerous parties, the celebratory lunches, the gift buying and gift getting? I think it’s important to ask the same question when working and dealing with non-profit boards. How engaged are you with the board?  How engaged are they with the organization?

Whether it’s the Program Committee, the Fundraising Committee or the Finance Committee – board engagement is crucial in furthering your mission, generating revenue, serving the fiduciary role and keeping the mission of the organization thriving and in good standing for years to come.

While we all know that an engaged board is a more fruitful board, we can’t expect that to happen on its own. It’s incumbent on the leaders of the organization to be focused on board engagement and have a disciplined, proactive strategy. However, this shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of the Executive Director – everyone has a role to play to ensure a strong board. And we need to be constantly posing the questions of are we truly growing and preparing the organization for the next Board?

So how do we “engage the board successfully” and how do we keep them engaged? Here are four strategies on how to do it:

  1. Develop a strategic plan for maintaining active board participation
    • Understand why each member is on the board, what they bring to the organization and maximize their expertise.
    • Be purposeful in your cultivation of each relationship.
  1. Have a clear ask and defined role
    • Be specific about the role and responsibility for the board as a whole and each member.
    • Set up one-on-one conversations to answer any questions and offer any support needed so that each member can be successful.
  1. Create a communications plan for this stakeholder group
  • Establish a calendar of communication and explain the cadence so the members know what to expect when. That said, be flexible if something needs to be communicated in real time.
  • Remember you are the expert in this industry – board members will appreciate proactive communication about the industry and education of the latest trends, data and information.
  • Always be transparent – even when communicating difficult news.
  • Avoid surprises – try to get in front of any potential issues with the board so that they do not hear about something second-hand.
  1. Create a Culture of Ownership
  • Engage board members in the planning process so there is a sense of ownership. This will allow for better understanding and awareness of the goals, objectives and deliverables. This also helps with creating a sense of accountability.

As we close out the year and host final board meetings for 2015, let’s remember the importance of board engagement to your mission. Take a moment to thank current members and set aside time to develop the right strategic plan for a successful engaged board in 2016.


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