Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Is it really your job to help board members stay engaged?

This is a really fantastic post about helping board members be engaged. It offers simple ideas like providing lunch so members will attend meetings and giving them a ride if you want them to attend an event with your development director. I would add that respecting their time and running meetings accordingly goes a long way. After all, they are taking time out of their work day to volunteer for the organization. But providing lunch, picking them up, helping keep their meetings on task... who is responsible for these things? Aren't board members there to help YOU do your job? Shouldn't they be responsible for their own activity and engagement?

Well, really, no. Like organization staff, board members are there to help the organization succeed in its mission. They are responsible for helping staff achieve that goal, but so are staff responsible for helping board members achieve that goal. The difference is, board members don't get paid, meaning they volunteer their time, treasure, and talent to support the organization. Way too often, we treat board members as if they rank higher than staff, and we treat staff as if they rank higher than volunteers. The problem with this way of thinking is that board members are volunteers and everybody has the same goal: to further the organization's mission.

When staff members become discouraged and disengaged from the mission, it is up to the board to help
them problem solve and reconnect. This goes both ways. The fact that they are volunteers often makes it easier for them to disengage, especially if they feel that other board members and staff don't value their contributions. Being an active board member can be tough work, especially in small organizations that need all hands on deck to meet their goals. While the board is busy keeping staff morale up, it helps if the staff reciprocates. Making it easier for board members to lend an extra hand means more support for staff, and a better chance the organization will meet its goals.

In short, it is your job to help board members stay engaged, because that relationship works both ways.

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