This happens to too many boards – they lose their enthusiasm and zip. It’s sad to see in board members who have their energy to create change and make a difference in the world. 

However, staff and board leaders can certainly change this situation, using these 7 steps. What’s more, you’ll create happier board members as a result.

Here is our recipe for creating change, renewing enthusiasm and firing up these wonderful volunteers who care so much about your cause. But you have to assume some responsibility.

Whether you are a staff member, manager, executive — or a board leader — the change will really start with you.  Be willing to be a spark plug of energy. Assume leadership if there is a void. Find a way to promote the idea of freshening things up and use these 7 steps to help.

Here are our 7 Steps to Fire Up Your Board:

1. Reawaken Their Passion by Asking Them To Share Their Personal Stories

Board members are serving on your board for a reason. It’s probably a deep personal — even emotional — connection with your mission.

Do you ever talk about it? Probably not. We have found that the quickest way to reengage board members’ passion for the cause is simply asking them to share their story of why they care.

Tip: Asking people why they care can open the floodgates of energy and commitment – even bring people to tears. 

2. Help Them Understand Where the Money is Going

We love data! In fact, real numbers can motivate board members. Once they know the facts, they often get fired-up.

Try setting up these discussion questions:

  • Why does it cost so much?
  • Why do we need to spend money on this or that?
  • How much does it cost to help one kid (clean one stream, present one performance, etc.).

And the most important question your board members need to know is “What do we need the MOST but don’t have money for?”

Tip: When board members understand the urgency and the numbers, they might be calling everyone they know to help. (We’ve seen it happen.)

3. Connect Them to Your Real Work

It’s unfortunate. So many board meetings are stuck in dry business discussions — far away from the urgent, tough work in the field, on the stage, in the lab, in the classroom.  No wonder passionate, well-meaning board members feel estranged from the real mission of your nonprofit. And bored.

Take them out of the office and get them in the field. Give them a direct, personal experience of the amazing change you are creating in the world. You’ll see a sea change in their attitude, commitment, enthusiasm and engagement levels.

Tip: Try cancelling your next board meeting and take them on a field trip instead.

4. Liven Up Your Meetings

Ah, the boring board meeting. Fate worse than death?

Listening passively to presentation after presentation. Death by Powerpoint sometimes. There’s no interesting discussion. Or if there is a compelling discussion, it’s often on a trivial topic.

Yes, we’ve all been there!

Reorganize your agenda to put the boring stuff last rather than first. Make committee reports only two minutes each. Create a consent agenda. Give your board chair training in meeting facilitation.

Tip: Check out our post: “12 Ways to Liven Up Your Board Meeting.” 

5. Give Board Members What They Want

Want to give board members a “terrific experience?” If you do, you’ll be rewarded with enthusiasm, energy and lots more engagement.

What do board members really want? June Bradham’s research in her book “The Truth About What Nonprofit Boards Really Want” shared some mind-blowing insights.

Ms. Bradham found that board members want to:

  • Work with people who are as passionate and excited about the organization as they are.
  • Feel that their time is used wisely.
  • Get their hands dirty with real work.
  • Meet the other board members.

Tip: Give your board members some meaningful work that will actually help your organization.

6. Give Them Social Time

If one of the top things board members want is to meet the other board members, then we recommend more social time. That’s why coffees and lunches before and after meetings are so important.

Social time helps foster closer personal relationships among your board members, and a sense of trust among them all. Then they can function better as a team or a committee.

We think board members who don’t know each other well, cannot do a good job of running an organization.

Tip: Build optional social time into your regular meeting agenda.  

7. Focus Them on Action Items

What do your board members need to “do” in order to be good board members?

Simply attend meetings and offer their judgment and opinions?

We like to see board members equipped with actions they are supposed to take.

Whether it is calling five donors to say thank you, or introducing five new people to your organization, or selling five tickets, or opening the door to an important connection, or advocating for your nonprofit at a community forum, or researching roofers so you can get a new roof donated — there’s lots they can do.

Tip: Send board members out the door with a clear idea of what they need to do between now and the next board meeting.

Bottom Line: Try Out These 7 Steps

Take the responsibility to rev up the energy and enthusiasm of your board.

Try these ideas and see what erupts, we’ve tested these 7 steps and they really do work!

As always, it is a pleasure to share our weekly news and insights with you as we cover new fundraising trends. 

If your organization is planning a capital campaign or launching a major gifts program – we can help. Send an email to coaching@gailperry.com if you’d like to schedule a free strategy call with us.