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Engaging your Board for Success

Posted on June 2, 2016

It’s no secret that some not-for-profit organisations struggle to attract and retain board members. Lack of board member engagement contributes to this retention challenge, with some NFPs unable to articulate how their board members can actively engage in a way that best supports the organisation. 

How hard would it be to do a great job if you weren’t clear about your job description? How long would you be able to maintain your engagement and enthusiasm?

Many charities aren’t as upfront as they may should be about their expectations of board members. We usually ask experienced, zealous supporters to donate their time to board meetings, but, further than that? We’re too nervous to ask! As a result, board members and staff end up confused about roles or we fail to empower them as advocates for our cause!

So what should not-for-profits look for in their board members? It’s fair to say there are some commonalities we can all agree on.

We want board members who:

  1. Contribute to the achievement of good governance, ensuring that the organisation is compliant with relevant legislation and its own constitution, and that procedures are effective in delivering quality services and programs
  2. Bring valuable, specific skills that enhance the organisation, including finance, legal, or specific, relevant sector expertise
  3. Engage in developing strategy and contributing to its execution
  4. Are passionate about the cause; not necessarily personally affected by the issue the charity focuses on, but understand the cause and are true cause champions
  5. Can confidently speak about the mission and vision of the charity. As the highest level leadership in the organisation, board members are the best advocates for the cause. It is vital that they demonstrate a desire to talk about the cause and spread the word
  6. Are well-connected and willing to engage their network. Whilst many don’t think of themselves as well-connected, their openness in engaging their contacts often uncovers a valuable connection and opens a door for a considerable donation 
  7. Are not afraid to ask. This is often a sticking point with board members as few people feel completely comfortable asking others for money. Fortunately, fundraising consultants can guide board members through a series of steps to help them know how and who to ask

These seven key traits are not too much to ask of your board members. However, setting new expectations with your board can be challenging! Initiating change and a new approach with your organisation’s board starts with an honest conversation followed by clarifying expectations, education, training and support.

It’s often useful for a board to include another, external perspective in the conversation about enhancing the role of its members. A not for profit specialist can help you review your current situation, identify gaps and opportunities, provide advice, clarify best practice and make recommendations.

4community services are available throughout Australia, including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and regional areas. Call us on 1800 822 763 to have a chat and book your consultation. 

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