Because so much of what board members do as a group is behind the scenes, we often forget the supremely important role they play in governing our nonprofits. Boards are a tricky aspect of leadership when you’re the executive director or CEO. When your board is ineffective, you have to succeed in spite of its mediocre performance. When your board is exceptional, it can multiply your efforts tenfold. Ironically in either case, the board still oversees your organization. However, with Kay Grace’s Ultimate Board Member’s Book guidelines, you can have an impact on whether your board is a help or hindrance.
Last week, in our live interview with Kay Sprinkel Grace, a participant asked “How do you ensure that a board is as equally concerned with fundraising as they are with governance?”
Grace answered this question beautifully by addressing the importance of defining roles for a board member. “Too often I see board members drift into management areas rather than governance or fundraising, creating conflict with the staff,” says Grace. It’s up to the board development committee (see Grace’s discussion on this committee) to explain what the boundaries are when someone is recruited and trained. In other words, “This is your job as a board member and this is the management team’s job…” says Grace.
Keep them inspired
Secondly, keeping board members on task with governance and fundraising is a matter of keeping them inspired. Mission-level work and policy setting are heady tasks, and without any inspiration, it’s easy to see why some members float into undesignated areas. “Board members join you because they care about your organization or feel a connection with someone they respect on the board,” Kay adds. It’s up to you to keep them inspired so they feel invigorated to raise funds as well as focus on governance, policy setting, or budgeting.
If instead, you dazzle them during their recruitment process and leave them to the business of governing without regularly bolstering them with “mission moments,” you’re asking the board member to find their own inspiration. Left to themselves, they’ll gravitate toward the familiar, which are usually management matters. Mission moments are simply a time during the meetings when important mission-related anecdotal information is shared to inspire and motivate, says Grace.
Get them comfortable with the task of fundraising
Another surefire way of driving your board members to find tasks outside of their job description is to shoulder them with fundraising without any input. Without any say in how they are involved in development, some board members will identify another focus that isn’t necessarily helpful to the board objectives.
Kay Sprinkel Grace introduces a terrific way for addressing every level of comfort and expertise with fundraising at the board level in her book, The AAA Way to Fundraising Success. The process begins with asking your board to choose from three different roles in fundraising: 1) Ambassador, 2) Advocate, and 3) Asker. Then you spread the choices your board members have made on a matrix and develop a plan based on who will ask, advocate or serve as ambassador. “Because board members have chosen the role they want to play, their willingness to fulfill the identified role is amazing,” says Grace. Grace’s number one rule in this AAA program is that everyone is at least an ambassador.
What results from defining roles, keeping members inspired and implementing this AAA process is a board that is equally confident with raising money as they are with governing the organization.