When board members are truly engaged, they become your nonprofit’s biggest ambassadors and advocates. That said, if you want your board members to perform at their best, it’s important for executive directors to provide them with the tools and structure necessary for them to succeed. Here are three strategies for engaging your new board members so they will actively participate in meeting the goals of your organization.
Assign a “Board Buddy”
It can be overwhelming for a new board member to join an organization. They might feel intimidated to ask questions in front of more seasoned board members and they might feel a little out of the loop about everything that is going on. It can be very helpful to have a mentor to help them navigate the first few meetings. Assign a “board buddy” that will greet them at the beginning of the first meeting, sit with them during the meeting, and answer any questions they might have after the meeting. The mentor can also meet with the new board member outside of board meetings to catch them up on any important information from last year’s meetings and even help them get started on their first project. We can all benefit from support and encouragement and pairing new board members with a seasoned member will lead to stronger engagement.
Cultivate the Mission
Board members feel more engaged when they are confident they understand the mission of the organization and what exactly it takes to advance it. It is always a good idea to start the year by holding a discussion about the mission. Define the mission in a way that is clear and relevant to board members. Revisit the mission statement to make sure that all activities are consistent with the mission. Together, come up with ideas for how each board member can advance the mission of the nonprofit organization. Not only is this a great way to help new board members develop a clear understanding of the mission, but it is an opportunity for seasoned members to be reminded of why they are here and what they are working toward.
Find the Right Work
If you want to ensure that your newest board members are engaged from the start, it is imperative that you find the right work for them. People join boards for different reasons. Some people want to offer their professional expertise while others want to get involved in the actual volunteer work. Talk with new board members prior to the first meeting and find out about their interests, strengths, and goals. Asking someone to volunteer for work that they are uncomfortable with or not passionate about will set them up for failure. Rather, engage board members where they will be the most productive and enthusiastic to keep them productive and fulfilled.
There is no shortage of reasons why it is vital to engage your nonprofit association’s board members. An engaged board strives to work collaboratively with the executive director, and even works between board meetings to make sure they are well-prepared. They work on a culture of trust and respect with other board members in order to deliver positive results.