To effectively advance your cause and push your fundraising goals forward, your nonprofit needs a strong internal infrastructure and team. This means rallying not only your staff and volunteers around your nonprofit’s mission, but also your board.
Your board can do much more than approve budgetary plans and make high-level decisions about your nonprofit’s direction; in fact, board members can play a substantial role in every aspect of your organization. They just need to feel engaged in your organization’s mission and be given the necessary tools and support to maximize their impact.
- You might be wondering how you can encourage board members to stay invested in your nonprofit’s success. After all, your board members likely lead busy lives and are already juggling multiple responsibilities. To reenergize your board and refocus their attention on your nonprofit’s priorities, use these best practices:
- Engage your board members in nonprofit strategic planning
- Empower board members to help with fundraising
- Create productive working relationships
Your board is a powerful resource for your organization. By keeping your mission on the top of their minds, you can utilize board members’ skills, enthusiasm and influence to improve your nonprofit as a whole. Let’s begin.
Engage your board members in nonprofit strategic planning
To play a more impactful role in your nonprofit’s mission, your board members need to first have a complete understanding of your purpose, goals and priorities. Involving your board members in nonprofit strategic planning can help.
Aly Sterling Philanthropy explains that nonprofit strategic planning is the process of aligning your organization’s goals with your values to provide a dynamic performance map for the future. There are a number of key benefits to involving board members in this planning process:
- Your board can offer their input based on their unique insights and position in your organization.
- Your board will be better prepared to make high-level decisions once they understand your nonprofit’s priorities.
- Your board will understand their roles in the “big picture” and how they can contribute to your nonprofit’s success over the long term.
- Your board will feel a greater sense of ownership over your plan, leading to increased accountability and increasing the likelihood that they’ll follow through on their responsibilities.
Your organization’s board and other key stakeholders—such as your major donors, staff, loyal volunteers and influential community members—can then work together with the help of a nonprofit consultant to begin strategic planning. An experienced consultant will walk your organization through the following key steps:
- Assess the history of your organization, your nonprofit’s current state and your vision for the future. This initial reflection will help your nonprofit identify your strengths and weaknesses and determine how you can grow. To facilitate this process, your consultant will lead interviews with your stakeholders, including your board, to gather their unbiased feedback.
- Align your goals with your nonprofit’s values to shape your plans for the future. To gather your board’s insights and establish priorities, invite them to an action-oriented forum. Your consultant will help guide productive discussions and build consensus across your team.
- Act on your priorities with a plan of action that identifies exactly how your nonprofit will strengthen its operations. Your strategic plan should include projects that will push forward your priorities, the board members that will help facilitate each task, key performance indicators and a timeline for completion.
By involving your board members in the strategic planning process, they’ll have a strong familiarity with your nonprofit’s goals and can play a significant role in your growth. Revisit your nonprofit strategic plan each year to make adjustments as needed based on your nonprofit’s existing state.
Empower board members to help with fundraising
Beyond approving budgetary plans, board members can support your fundraising strategy (and your mission) by personally engaging with donors, leveraging their influence to connect you with prospects and providing feedback. For example, you can empower your board to help in the following ways:
- Introduce your nonprofit to prospective major donors. Your board members likely have friends and colleagues with the giving capacity to become major donors. Have your board identify prospects and facilitate introductions with your nonprofit’s staff so you can begin relationship-building.
- Support your donor stewardship strategy. Include board members in your donor stewardship plan by asking them to make thank-you calls, write personalized notes and set up in-person meetings once donors pass a certain giving threshold. This helps donors feel appreciated and gives your board the opportunity to get to know donors on a personal level.
- Participate in your feasibility studies. If your nonprofit is gearing up to run a large-scale campaign like a capital campaign, you’ll need to start with a feasibility study. During a feasibility study, a trusted consultant will conduct interviews with key stakeholders, including your board, to gather their opinions about your nonprofit’s current state and whether you’re ready to take on this project. Plus, board members can help your nonprofit shape its case for support.
- Give personal gifts. Your board members should show their support for your mission and fundraising goals by giving personal gifts. This will help your nonprofit establish the foundational support it needs to make its campaigns successful.
Consider hosting a fundraising training session or providing a resource library for your board members so they’re aligned on best practices. This way, they’ll have the right strategies and tools to effectively connect with donors and support your fundraising efforts.
Create productive working relationships
To increase the productivity of your board and ensure that they feel invested in your nonprofit, you need to facilitate a positive work environment. It’s important for your board to work together as a team so they can support the various initiatives of your nonprofit strategic plan. Plus, when board members enjoy one another’s company, they’ll feel more enthusiastic about meeting regularly to advance your cause.
To facilitate productive and positive working relationships, use these tips:
- Offer ways for board members to get to know one another and build camaraderie outside of meetings, such as getting lunch together or volunteering as a group.
- Set up a mentoring program between veteran and novice board members. This will help new board members feel more comfortable and give your veteran members a chance to get to know them. Plus, new board members can readily ask questions about your mission, fundraising plan and vision for the future, helping them to better understand your strategic plan and how to support it.
- Create a communication cadence where board members can stay in touch with one another and share updates outside of meetings.
The best peer-to-peer relationships are based on mutual respect and understanding. By laying down the groundwork for productive working relationships, you can proactively avoid interpersonal conflicts from occurring and develop a cohesive working model, which will be especially helpful when your board has to make difficult decisions.
With an engaged board that cares about your nonprofit’s success, you can take your organization to new heights. Remember to regularly thank your board members for their efforts so they remain enthusiastic about supporting your cause. ECardWidget’s guide to board member appreciation recommends sharing personalized thank-you notes or hosting appreciation events to help members feel seen and connected to your mission.
Armed with a united and energized board, your nonprofit will benefit from a strong internal culture and will be better prepared to serve your community.