Last week I heard two people suggest that many Executive Directors don’t really want their board members engaged.

Why?

Because they are afraid their board members will “meddle.”

What do I mean by meddling?

It’s when a well-meaning board member pushes a personal idea or agenda that is not an organizational or staff priority.

Meddling board members may have the staff walking on eggshells.

The trustee may come up with a strategy, tactic, or issue that he or she thinks is really urgent and important.

But the problem is that it’s simply not in the business or operating plan.

Sure, it might be a cool idea, but the staff’s already got more to do than they can handle.

When things get sticky.

When a meddling board member is bothering staff about their personal hot issue, things can get very sticky.

It’s very distracting to the staff who may have to walk on eggshells.

It’s a fine line to try to honor the board member’s good intentions and ideas, but also ignore or deflect their idea, and still not turn them off.

Sometimes the staff has to clean up after a board member who’s gone off on a tangent, and created tension and confusion.

It takes valuable time and energy away from the very, very important work at hand.

(Read my post on Board Members Gone Wild!)

So, how do you prevent a board member from meddling?

The solution? Give them plenty of other important work do to.

Load them up with action items. Then they won’t have the time or energy to create additional work.

It’s the board member who doesn’t have anything to do, who tends to create work.

And often it’s the wrong kind of work.

YOU should create their To Do list.

YOU should create the board members' "To Do" list. Not them.

Don’t let THEM create their own list!

And by “you”  I mean board and staff leaders alike.

It’s the leadership that agrees on the priorities, generates agreement from everyone, and creates the To Do List. Not individual board members.

I believe in giving board members plenty of action items to accomplish.

Give them something meaningful to do.

Don’t let them guess what you need them to do – otherwise you just may have someone who’s trying to head in a wrong direction.

What action items can you have them do?

  • Tours:

Try systematically organizing tours of your office or field trips to see your work.  Invite community leaders, donors and friends to take the tours.

Have a board member host each tour.

Ask each board member to host one tour a year for their network and contacts.

  • Thank donors:

Have them write thank you notes to donors.

Ask them to phone donors to say thank you.

Ask them to host parties for your donors to make them feel like insiders.

Ask them to host a thankathon to warm up donors before your annual fall appeal.

Have them host Porch Parties to introduce their friends to the cause.

Ask them to host social gatherings, coffees, meetings to spread the word and make new friends.

  • Solicit gifts:

Seek sponsorships for your next event. Give everybody a call list and names to cover.

Make phone calls to followup annual fund appeals.

See my post 14 Easy Ways Board Members Can Raise Money.

  • Identify prospects:

Have them create a VIP Prospect List for your organization.

Moral of the story:

If you put board members to work constructively, they will typically stay with the plan.

Distract them with plenty of the right kind of work and they won’t go off on personal tangents. (we hope!)

How do YOU keep your well-meaning volunteers on task and in action?

Leave a comment and let us know!