3 Ways to Improve Nonprofit Board Engagement

BoardroomThe board is your organization’s most important asset. Nonprofits are the third biggest government subsidy in the United States and therefore exist with the public trust. Low board engagement is a threat to this trust and will directly impact fundraising, governance, community relations and mission

As explained in our recent ebook, “Maximizing Board Engagement and Effectiveness,” disengaged boards are often a result of:

  • Misalignment of mission: Based on our research, one in four board members aren’t fully engaged with the mission of the organization.
  • Passively managed expectations: Expectations must be addressed and regularly agreed upon to ensure members understand responsibilities.
  • Communication silos: Communication rifts lie within inaccessible, unorganized resources. Transparency is key.
  • Unplugged talent: When an organization does not recognize and utilize the talents and skills that board members possess, it often leads to low engagement.

So, how do you overcome low engagement and future-proof your board? 

1. Better Engage Your Sitting Board

Low engagement leads to poor meeting attendance, high turnover and decreased productivity. To alleviate these symptoms, take steps to better engage your board:

  • Realign the mission: Conduct annual self-assessments to evaluate morale and alignment with the mission. Create a mission plan for each individual trustee.
  • Actively manage expectations: Make sure board and committee expectations are clearly articulated to all members and the expectation status is used as part of an ongoing improvement process.
  • Optimize effective communication: Make resources and meeting information easily accessible and encourage transparency.
  • Utilize the skills and talents of your board: Take note of the specific talents, skills, and educational backgrounds of each board member and utilize them in areas where you see fit.  Board members want to be strategic; let them!

2. Recruit an Engaged Future Board

In order to prevent the same low board engagement factors that plague your current board from taking root in the future, take these strategic steps: 

  • Recruit qualified professionals who believe in the organization’s mission, instead of those looking to fulfill work requirements or achieve networking benefits.
  • Be upfront during the on-boarding process about commitment and expectations.
  • Assess prospective board members’ skills and how they align with organizational need.
  • Encourage the most engaged board members to refer potential candidates, as quality attracts quality.
  • Use mentors and onsite visits to engage new members with the mission from the start.

3. Leverage Board Management Technology

Available technologies make communication, scheduling, project management, document management and information sharing more effective, efficient and logical. 

By leveraging technology, you can better engage board members while also paving the way for future member recruitment.

In a study we conducted in conjunction with The Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management, most respondents indicated that implementing technologies such as document management software (44%), online calendars (40%), webinars/video conferencing (36%), and board management software (24%) would be useful to improve board communication.  

Note: A board portal, such as BoardMax, houses email, document sharing and online calendar functionality all within one comprehensive system.

Board Portal Benefits for Your Organization

With a board portal, your organization can manage board and committee meetings, centralize communications, encourage interaction, and match board members’ skills with organizational needs. This enables you to keep board members interested and engaged, drive good governance and ensure regulatory compliance. 

Does your organization suffer from low board engagement? If so, learn how you can turn your unengaged board into an efficient and productive team by downloading our ebook.

Image source: Stephanie Richard via FlickR