More Effective Nonprofit Boards

Most charities focus on what they want from their nonprofit boards (Board of Directors, Board of Trustees, etc.): more donations from board members, more donations brought in by the board members (from people in their personal networks), connections to new donors or partners, expertise (legal, fiduciary, etc.), a higher organizational profile, help with attracting supporters to events or fundraisers, evaluation of the executive director… or just plain old, difficult-to-measure “caché” or status.

Like any relationship, the relationship between a nonprofit’s professionals and its board is a two way street.

Nonprofit boards could be even more effective if organizations also thought about what they are doing for their boards to help them be more successful.

What resources can nonprofits provide to their boards?

Nonprofits can provide board members with:

  • Training in key skills, such as fundraising or networking.
  • Access to prospect (prospective donor) lists, so that the board members can see if they have any personal connections to prospects and can be helpful in the cultivation process.
  • Succinct, easy-to-share materials about the organization (either its overall work, or a specific project), so that board members can share that information both formally and through informal conversations – at a dinner party, a golf game, a place of worship, etc.
  • A clear list of mutually-agreed upon expectations between the organization and the board members, so everyone will know what is expected of each other.
  • Ample advance notice of organizational meetings, fundraising deadlines, etc.
  • Regularly scheduled opportunities for boards to evaluate their own performance and let the organization know what they need in order to be more successful.
  • Opportunities to be connected to, and inspired by, the organization’s work – site visits, meetings with clients or recipients of services, videos of events, written testimonials, insider briefings from staff members who are doing the work every day… this will look different for every organization, but every organization can find a way to make it special and informative. For example, I’ve worked with arts organizations that will board members behind-the-scenes tours of their archives or brief talks from curators at board meetings.

I recently discussed these and other ideas on the Small & Mighty Fundraising Minute Podcast. I also have found that BoardSource has great resources on nonprofit board effectiveness.

Like any relationship, the relationship between a nonprofit’s professionals and its board is a two-way street. What has your organization provided to the board to keep them active, engaged, and inspired? Or, if you are a board member, what has your organization done for you?

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