I sit in a LOT of board meetings.
As a consultant, I’m often asked to present on updates with current clients, pitch our services to potential organizations and their leadership team, or am invited to provide fundraising expertise via presentation or trainings.
And there seems to be one thing in common with most Boards:
Yes, they find your organization wonderful and love the mission surrounding it.
Yes, they are connected intimately in some way and want to see it succeed.
Yes, they show up and participate.
But man alive, they need some inspiration.
You might confuse a bored board member with being cantankerous. There may be a leader in the group who nitpicks about small budgetary items that makes no macro-impact on how you deliver services, but dammit they need an doctorate level explanation on why that line item of revenue decreased by 0.04%.
You might confuse a bored board member with being disinterested. Sure, there are a ton of leaders who only read the agenda two minutes before the meeting, but I’m talking that member who is scrolling through their Instagram or Googling the concept of time travel to make the meeting go faster.
You might confuse a bored board member with being obnoxious. Their need to throw an opinion out there on every topic of discussion or questioning the motives of other leader’s answers might just be a way to make a very mundane experience feel a little more exhilarating, at the expense of them sounding like Tucker Carlsen.
They might not be a bad leader.
They might just need a bit of positive inspiration and purposeful tasks to get them out of their rut.
So here are a few ways you can engage your board of directors and pivot them from being perspectiveless to being productive.
1. Bring them on Donor Visits
Inviting your board members to join you for a coffee meeting or lunch date with a supporter is a fantastic way for your leaders to not only engage in mission-esque storytelling, but gives them a chance to see how you interact with your donors.
It gives donors an opportunity to get insight from your leadership team, and there is something very cool about being asked to give your perspective to a board member who can directly impact the way your mission is funded and directed.
It always gives you a chance to engage with your board members in an environment that is not around a table, over a Zoom call or discussion budgets. Having the ability to gain cheerleaders for you and your team is an invaluable tool. What better way to do that, then by saying “thanks” with you to your donors!?
2. Empower them to take Action on Things You’ve Talked About FOREVER
Nothing frustrates your board more than talking about the same thing for years with zero movement towards a resolution or goal. A lot of times all it takes is a baby step or two that helps move the needle forward and unlocks the enthusiasm that has been missing from your leadership team.
If you’ve been talking about a building project or expansion with your board and nothing seems to be happening except for endless meetings about planning to plan the plan for developing a plan to plan it – you might want to create space for something other than discussions. No, you don’t have to pay someone to design a concept but it might help to engage your top supporters in asking them questions about the potential project and reporting back some of your insights and the interest of the community on it. Think of it like a mini-feasibility study without the hefty price tag.
In fact – empower your board members to do this for you.
From those conversations, they could develop a list of potential campaign leaders who are willing to help lift the project from concept to next step and that just may ignite a bit of a fire for their passion assist with the hard work ahead.
3. Rotating Mentorships
A great way to engage your new board members is to partner them up with a more experienced leader to not only show them the ropes, but make them feel they are getting almost a mentor-like understanding of the organization and in business.
Your diverse and unique set of individuals who make up your board can be of real value to each other inside and outside of their leadership role.
If there are leaders who would make great power couples in the community if they combined brain power – and you were the person who facilitated the relationship, think about how many doors would be open to you in the future!
And think about what added benefit to being a board member would be to your leadership team if they experienced a sense of business and social connection outside of their passion for your mission.
It’s a win-win for you and your members when thinking about how you can engage them differently than simply handing them an agenda, a report and an expectation to take the lead on creating a path forward for your nonprofit.
It takes a bit of extra effort to help them feel appreciated and needed.
But what a difference it makes to have a board not sitting at a meeting bored out of their skull.
For you AND them.
You got this!