I have seen in discussion groups hosted by BoardSource as well as the Philanthropy Network the question of how to engage board members. This is clearly a need and challenge in that often the potential board candidates you want on your board are by definition, very successful and thus very busy individuals that are committed to many activities. There are three areas that we found in our product research that board members feel are critical to more individual engagement with the organization.
1. What Board Members Want:
They want to understand what is expected of them and what, in return, is expected of the organization they serve with.
Typically organizations may take the time to set expectations for the members and then maybe even orient them to the board and the role that the organization plays. Rarely, however, do organizations track and consistently measure the expectations and almost never do organizations track and measure the member’s goals for their experience, mission alignment/engagement, or the organizations commitment to the member. In providing a tool to help organizations manage these areas we have found significant additional engagement.
2. What Board Members Want:
They want to feel that their commitment is valued and that they are accomplishing goals and objectives from meeting to meeting.
Members primarily engage through meetings; consequently, it is critical that meetings are productive and are moving in a direction towards a common strategic goal. The most common concern that we have heard from Board Members is that “it often feels that we just meet to meet and we cover the same ground from meeting to meeting.” In order to address this issue it is critical that organizations have goals for their boards and committees and measure action items from meetings in order to relate these items back to the goals. Then, as the organization tracks the completion of action items, the members can see the completion of the goal.
3. What Board Members Want:
Board members want consistent, accurate, timely, and accessible communication.
Board Members often feel that accessing and tracking information is too difficult and they are not getting the information they need in a timely fashion. The reality is this may not be the organization’s fault, but it is their problem. Consequently, organizations need to provide better and more varied ways to access mission critical material for their members and provide tools for them to respond and communicate more efficiently. One challenge to a possible solution is not all members will respond in the same way, so managing these varied styles requires a system and process that is not only of high quality but flexible as well.
Engaged board members are an organizations most critical asset. After all, the three most important words in fundraising are “Come join me!” and the only one who can say this is an actively engaged leadership volunteer.
Image Source: Michigan Municipal League