The most important question for achieving an engaged nonprofit board is to ask regularly “Why do you care?” An organization that loses sight of the answer to this question is likely not going to have an inspired and engaged board.
Why do I care?
As a nonprofit Board member, you are an ambassador for the organization. In this role, there is nothing more powerful than sharing your story of why you are committed to the organization and its mission and why you care.
You don’t need to memorize the mission or learn an elevator speech or key points of the strategic plan. Yes, by all means, at the basis of your story should be the organization’s messaging – who is the organization; what is its purpose and what is its desired impact in our community?
However, for the rest, when talking to friends, neighbors, colleagues and donors the important thing is to tell your story – why you care, why you got involved, what has benefitted you about the cause whose work you are supporting?
Storytelling needs to be at the heart of engaging your stakeholders.
Like the one from Society for Information Management (SIM) board member Blake Holman, CIO at St. David’s, that I saw on their website: “For over a decade, SIM has been vital to me in creating and growing my professional network. It has afforded me the chance to meet and share experiences with IT leaders across the U.S. on a deep and broad basis.”
And for board chair Craig Snook, who served for six years at Vela, an Austin-based nonprofit that provides programming for families with children with disabilities: “Vela parents are given knowledge that I’ve seen transforms them from being confused and seemingly helpless to having a voice and power to support their child. The results are truly amazing!”
At the beginning of your next board meeting, consider asking everyone “Why do you care?”. You can either do a round giving each board member 2-3 minutes to say why. Or, if your board is too big for that, take five or so minutes for everyone to write it down on a card and then invite a few members to share.
Questions to ask might be:
Why do you care about this organization?
What would you say if someone asked why you cared enough to serve on this board?
What motivates you about the organization’s work? How would you talk about that with other people?
An engaged board is a motivated board. It is important to continuously ignite the passion of your board members to remind them why they, as volunteers, are there.
For assistance in building and maintaining your board’s engagement, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.