Securing Help from Your Board: Are You Ready?
By: Melissa Lagowski
Big Buzz Idea Group
We all dream of a Board that wants to help move the mission outside of the Board Meeting. All too often, many Executive Directors share woeful stories of board members who barely show up for the meetings let alone support the organization in other ways. But lately, we have been hearing stories about boards and volunteers who are looking for ways to contribute in more meaningful ways. To maximize the willingness of leaders to support your nonprofit, it is important that you properly prepare for these opportunities.
Planning for Potential Assistance
Be ready. Know what you need so you are properly prepared when someone asks you how they can help. Devote the time necessary to build your list of possible needs so you are ready BEFORE someone expresses a desire to assist.
Dream – Devote 30 minutes to creating a wish list. Don’t wait until you think you will have time to do it or it may never happen. Set aside time to create a list of all the things you wish you had time to do that could help your organization grow, then give some thought as to which board member would be best suited to help complete the task.
Review Your Task List – Is there anything on your current to-do list that a Board Member could help with?
Review Your Staff’s Lists – Do you have an employee or a department that has been overwhelmed? Ask them for a list of ideas where others might be able to assist them. Sometimes a bit of help will provide your team much relief.
Brainstorm with the Board – Sometimes, brainstorming with the Board can help spark great ideas while energizing and inspiring the leaders of your organization to help at crucial times of the year. So, set aside time to solicit input from your Board, or at the very least, your Executive Committee.
Review Your List – Goals and priorities may change for an organization unexpectedly, so it is a best practice to review the task list periodically to ensure that any assistance stays aligned with the goals of your nonprofit organization.
Once your list has been documented, be sure to determine which tasks are a priority. Generally, board members are going to want higher level tasks, so you might also want to separate your task list into priorities for the board versus priorities for volunteers.
Some Additional Ideas for Board Assistance
In the off chance that you have followed the steps above and come up with a very short inventory of ideas for assistance, the following options are ways that some of our team members have engaged their Board of Directors. At the very least, this list might serve as a springboard for you to start creating your wish list.
Donor Outreach – Additional contact with key contributors is always a bonus, so ask board members to make calls, sign thank you notes or meet donors for coffee to deepen existing relationships.
Member Outreach – Personal check-ins can be very meaningful, and it’s crucial for membership-based organizations to stay connected to their members. This is why many organizations have a dedicated director for this purpose, but even so, having your board reach out to members sends a powerful message about how much you value them. Sometimes a peer-to-peer conversation can also be more engaging which can help you collect feedback that will benefit your chamber or association.
Messaging – When was the last time your organization reviewed its messaging? Is there a fresh perspective that a board member could help prepare for your organization?
Social Media Engagement – If leaders and supporters of your organization actively engage with your social media online, they can help grow the reach and exposure for your nonprofit. And if it doesn’t already exist, have someone create and share a cheat sheet about how to engage with your social media.
Committees – Support committee chairs for increased productivity. Board members can also send thank you notes to the committee chairs to recognize these important volunteers for their time and contributions to the organization.
Grow Donor Lists – Ask board members to review their contact lists for potential donors and sponsor ideas. The best fundraising leads come from personal introductions, so if a board member can introduce you to even a single new contact, you are likely to have stronger financial success.
Grow Contact Lists – Volunteers of all types can help expand the reach of your nonprofit by inviting their contacts to connect with your charity through your events and activities. Preparing a simple one sheet to share with your board, volunteers, members, etc. can easily help you expand your reach. Many of our clients use this approach for their one or two big events each year as to not overwhelm those who want to help.
Write an Article – An article from the perspective of a board member can be very impactful in the storytelling of your organization. And when you ask someone to write about why they think the work of your nonprofit matters, it can also result in a renewed commitment from the writer as they reconnect with why they support your cause.
Build an Image Library – Sorting photos can be a time-consuming task, but it is so meaningful in your storytelling. Creating an image library can be an ideal use of volunteer time.
Create a Video Library – Collect and/or create videos for promoting the organization and its programs or events. Short video clips can be used for testimonials and promotion via social media and email marketing, so establish some parameters for the videos you want to set clear parameters. And then invite a small volunteer team to help secure the videos.
When a board member or other volunteer offers to help, have your list ready. Show them the options and ask what speaks to them so that you can best align their skills with your needs for maximum success and increased growth. They will feel more connected to the organization due to this vital contribution. You will feel a sense of relief that additional work is being done that you and your staff just don’t have time to tackle, and the organization will benefit as tasks are completed.