Thank you for joining us at Board Engagement – in or out? We received so many great questions that we simply didn’t have a chance to answer them all during the webinar. This is such a critical topic for success, the team wanted to offer some perspective on the questions we didn’t have a chance to address.

We’ve broken the questions up into different categories. We hope this is helpful. If you would like to talk with one of our Executive Fundraising Coaches further and learn how Auxilia can help, please click the link here and we will reach out!

Board Engagement:

  1. How best to re-engage board members after being virtual for 2 years?

Begin with having them call donors to thank them and/or write notes. Then progress to having them provide names and or go with you on calls to donors. Let them see what your organization is doing, hands-on. People are visual creatures and if they can volunteer during the program, this will be so much the better.

  1. Suggestions for creating an engaging and safe place when meetings are hybrid

Tough one but make sure to include the people on Zoom in the conversation. Specifically call on someone and get the conversation going. Also make sure the camera is facing the physical attendees so they can see the Zoom people, hear them well, and feel a part of the conversation.

  1. I’m very new to this organization. Any suggestions for how to re-start a lethargic board who was intentionally NOT engaged by the previous CEO?

First piece of advice is to meet with everyone. Ask everyone: Why are you here? What excited that about being a part of the organization? What is the vision? From here, find points of commonality, report on day-to-day activities, and show progress. Friendly reminder that individuals are visual creatures, and they want to see how what they do can make a BIG difference.

  1. How do you find that balance of asking board members to perform tasks while at the same time recognizing they are volunteers?

Be clear, transparent, and real on what is (I would say “their responsibility”) responsible of them. If what you are asking is not something you would be willing to do, then don’t ask others to be responsible for it. Be real about the impact and how much time the tasks may take. Make sure that the tasks and projects that you are asking of your board members are a part of the orientation discussion or pre-meetings before actually joining the board. Setting proper expectations of Board members before they join is crucial.

  1. How do you facilitate a strategic planning?

Strategic meetings should be handled in person and as much as possible. Keep it open, set rules, and discuss clearly what is on the agenda. Everything should be on the table when it comes to planning. Do a SWOT analysis and goal setting for where you want the organization to be in 1, 3, and 5 years. Share with participants that while strategy is great to document and execute, things can change on a quickly (for example the Pandemic) and everyone needs to be comfortable with that fluidity. If the strategy session is virtual, consider using tools like: polls, break out rooms, whiteboards and word clouds.

  1. How do you suggest getting the board out of the weeds?

You want to make sure that there is clear distinction between if the group is a governing board or if they are an advisory board. Some governing boards get in the weeds to bring the agency where it needs to be and then step out of those weeds. Regardless, if you want them out of the weeds you should set an agenda, send a packet in advance, and distribute clear control. Getting a Board package out at least a week in advance is very helpful!

  1. How do you engage members of a Board of Directors when you are not permitted to engage them yourself? I can only go through my Executive Director because some members don’t want to interact with staff, but only with him.

The starting point should be to ask the Executive Director to push back on the Board. Have the ED approach them and share the level of expertise you as a staff have and why the board needs to talk with the entire group and support. Also, see if there are specific board members that you can individually reach out to and work with. Little by little you can establish a solid rapport to make communication more consistent.

  1. How do I encourage my board to get out of the weeds and think strategically? They seem most interested in lower-level things. Could it be that my board reports are too “on the ground” and that’s why the board focuses on operations rather than strategy?

Send a packet in advance. Have time in the beginning for questions, but then roll into the agenda. Topics of focus should be on the vision and new business opportunities. Have individuals on the board that are comfortable with challenging others. Bring people into the conversation that have been present on other boards successfully and include their experience on technique in those meetings. Be clear on what you need help with from the Board members.

Board Development

  1. Do you believe it takes years to reconstruct a mismanaged organization? Or is it possible to fix and reconnect in a year or less? What has been your success to failure?

A dumpster fire can be fixed, but it requires either commitment by people involved to give it their all or to get out of the way entirely. Some tips are to include a solid strategic plan, to follow that plan, allow for some changes, but at the end of the day, remain true to what was agreed upon. Work together on documentation and structure of the organization. Review bylaws, policies, procedures. It may take a few years, but it is possible. Also, communicate milestones and celebrate them!

  1. Where do we find new board members if our current board members aren’t making those connections?

Talk with key donors and speak with fundraising partners. Engage with Chamber of Commerce, local leadership groups that are grooming the up-and-coming professionals in the areas. Seek out young business professional groups. Engage with other nonprofit board listings and see if you know someone to open that conversation. LinkedIn is your friend!

  1. How do you make board members care? They should join because they care. We explain to them that we are a working board, but there is a very “what can you do for me” attitude that has developed amongst some of our board members. The same few people keep doing all the work, and they are getting burned out.

Overall, you can’t make people care. Either they care or they don’t about your mission. Bylaws should define the expected results of each team member. Peer reviews can often be effective for the development of the board and the organization. The individuals present on the board should be present and give something to the organization. Give money, get money, or get off the board. If this means you are down to one board member, you can start over.

  1. How do you recruit the right board members from different fields?

Figure out what the current gaps are on the board and then reach out to people you know in those industries. When vetting new people, figure out how those fields can be linked to your mission and vision. Ask what these individuals can bring to the organization. Nominating committees can also be useful. Have written profiles of the roles you are seeking, what expectations are, and conduct reviews.

  1. How well established is the expertise on Boards of Directors in small, non-profit sectors? This will be more meaningful from where I sit.

Expertise is needed but can also be learned. You need to have the strength of the board to propel the organization forward.

  1. I have friends who are interested in helping, but I would like professionals to join our board. Currently where time is scarce, how can I get them interested? I don’t have a big circle of professionals like bankers, lawyers, etc.

The first question I would push back on is – Why do you need professionals? Why not start with people who truly believe in your mission and from there, provide them a role that would help with recruitment of future individuals. Also, note that your friends can still get involved. You can ask them to be a volunteer, to help coordinate events, have them support you in your social media strategy. It is good if your friends want to contribute to knowledge, ideas, and strategies.

  1. How do you recruit the right Board members from different fields?

Figure out first, what your needs are. See what you can engage pro bono, leaving board positions open for people who will be great ambassadors or advocates of the organization.

  1. How do you balance expectations for board members who bring different capacities to the group? For example, some board members may have little time and greater financial means, while others may bring valuable diverse voices to the conversation but have more limited financial capacity.

All board members should bring something to the table and a good mix is needed. Each individual needs to support, to the extent they can, in a financial matter to meet grant funding requirements. Whether it is a $1 or $100, all the board members need to support financially. That is a given and is an expectation. Don’t forget that time is also a commitment.

  1. We had a leadership transition (and those leaders terming off the board) this year and have had a huge dip in interest, support, and engagement. How, as an ED, do I navigate board engagement and independence, while not creating animosity?

Meet with everyone. Be clear on your vision. Create a sense of partnership. Talk about what has happened, but also work through opportunities.

Boards and Fundraising

  1. What are good/normal requirements for Board members in fundraising? do you recommend that Board members must give each year and how much?

Ask your board to make a gift that is meaningful for them and then ask for support as willingness to introduce the organization to their network, participate in donor/ supporter engagement activities.

  1. Where do we find the kind of Board members that will thrive?

Depends on definition of thrive. First, must start with what board member is hoping to achieve and does that align with the organization’s needs. Ask them what would make them thrive at your organization?

  1. How do you engage a board that has no fundraising requirement?

Include development processes as part of the criteria. Ask them to open doors, acknowledge, and participate. Work toward a requirement of some type so there is accountability. Ask them if a peer asks them to give and they said they do not (not the right answer by the way), why would the peer give if they did not? Fundraising starts by the board member making a gift and going from there.

  1. A mission functions on donations and corporate sponsorships, how do you educate the board that a faith-based mission is still a business?

All NPO’s are businesses, it is just the fact that they are a non-profit that makes it different. They still need to run it like a business. Income, expenses, in-kind, all of it. If they aren’t looking at it as a business, this is a red flag. Your programming, whatever it is grounded in, is your product that must be delivered. Faith based is a feature and a commonality with supporters. Support isn’t going to just appear. A faith-based organization has the same responsibilities as a business. In fact, although they have tax exemptions, they incur expenses and need investments to provide services that allow them to fulfill their mission. They could analyze case studies, know the fiduciary responsibility, and see the importance of philanthropy from a theological perspective.

  1. Can you give me some information on how to engage board members regarding getting them to participate in fundraising?

The board must give before they ask others to give. Simple as that. Include advocates on the board that say “Yes, we need to do this. If we don’t, no one else will.” There are different ways of participation. Meet with them individually, and annually, to review what is happening. We understand easier said than done but setting those expectations upfront will weed out Board members that don’t really want to be involved.

  1. How do I get Board members to actively participate in raising monies from their own personal network of friends, family, and neighbors?

Make it easy, make it authentic, make it a partnership. Give them tools. Brochures, webpages, QR codes, and scripts.

  1. What are ideas for getting board members to donor meetings?

Be there or be square. Donors need to hear from peer/peer perception. Have the board member take you along to do the hard stuff, talk about the programs, need for funding, etc. and have them explain why THEY believe in the mission. Invite Board members to events and have them speak!

  1. What are ideas other than using stories or how you as a board member are so committed/interested/passionate to the cause when chatting with friends or potential donors?

    Social media. Make sure stuff is current so you can go right there and show it. Have cards with a great story on the impact. 
  1. How to train donors to hone in on their story about the organization (think advocacy – hearts and minds vs things that are easily measurable like number of people served, animals adopted, etc.).

You must have both. Have a core message, needs, plan and impact. Have examples of each so they can then be pulled not every situation.

  1. What can you do to get your board to help you build your circle of donors/prospects? Board is reluctant to give any names or do any outreach.

If your board is reluctant of this, I would ask why they are in a leadership role. If they won’t introduce the organization to people they know and say “hey, this is important, learn more” they are not providing value. Ask them why they won’t and how else they are willing to help the nonprofit grow.

Board and Meeting Management

  1. How many committees do you recommend for a Board of less than 10 members? Any tips and suggestions on starting them?

Three Committees: 1. Compliance Committee – Oversee everything related to reports to applicable government agencies, licenses, certifications, audits. 2. Development Committee – Collaborates with strategic planning processes, fundraising plans, marketing plans, identifies external resource opportunities, and promotes philanthropy. 3. A committee related to the service they offer. Examples: academic, art, health, this one analyzes service evaluation processes to recommend improvements and protects the adopted philosophy of service.

Two ad hoc: Nominations and Strategic Planning

  1. The President of our Board tends to ramble and misrepresent information (details of events, etc.) in our meetings. Share tips for keeping conversations on track.

AGENDA (make sure you share this agenda before the meeting) and then a mission moment. Keep it short and simple.

Boards and Diversification

How can you suggest diversification with-in your Board and make it happen?

Look at your board demographics, get a client involved to represent the demographic of who and what you serve; check out different networking groups (Latino Chambers, Black Chambers, etc.) and go from there.