Building a Better Board

Susan E Mangels Senior Vice President Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald Author

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D, Senior Vice President of Consulting Services

Cultivating a dedicated and productive board of directors takes time, effort, and strategy. But the return is worth the investment. Done well, a nonprofit’s board is among its most valuable resources.

Below are some ideas for engaging your board and building it into a dynamic powerhouse.

Enlist your board members in the cause. Ideally, board members should have one or two tasks to accomplish between board meetings, such as making introductions to potential supporters or interviewing board candidates. Distribute a list of opportunities (e.g., events, newsletters) that enable board members to introduce their colleagues to your organization. Carefully define your board’s tasks, and help each member understand how his or her activities are crucial to the overall mission.

Recognize that everyone is different. Don’t lose sight of the fact that every board member is a singular volunteer and supporter. Develop a relationship with each member just as you would with a treasured major donor. Learn why he joined the board, what her interests are, and how they can help with specific tasks to support the organization.

Board members need ongoing education. We often pursue degrees and professional development for our careers, but no one goes to university to learn how to be a board member. Create a comprehensive program to educate your board. Teach your members about fundraising – the why and how – and train them regularly on best practices in governance.

Encourage their financial support. Invite your board members to donate early in your fiscal year. Their early buy-in will be a weight off your shoulders as well as an inspiration to other giving prospects. Steward them well, too. Even though they have a front-row seat to your organization’s work, they still need to hear how their support makes a difference.

And then have them spread the love. Keep your board members up to speed on the foundation and major donors you wish to approach, and encourage them to maximize any mutual connections. At the other end of the spectrum, have your board members thank donors on the phone and/or in writing. This unexpected touch will make a strong impression.

Working effectively with your board takes energy and strategy, but the rewards of an engaged board are hugely valuable for a healthy, growing organization.

Susan E. Mangels, Ph.D. serves as Senior Vice President of Consulting Services at AC Fitzgerald. She uses her expertise in fundraising, management, and leadership development to oversee our consulting efforts and deliver exceptional service to clients.

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