8 Tips To Help Your Nonprofit Board Become Evangelists For Your Cause

Tina Jepson
Tina Jepson

As a nonprofit leader, it is your job to keep the nonprofit board of directors actively engaged in your organization. However, this is much easier said than done. You’ve likely got a ton on your plate, operating your organization, managing employees and volunteers, and fundraising to keep it all afloat.

But, it’s time to consider your nonprofit board as an asset, not just another group you need to manage. After all, there’s a chance that your board is chock full of extremely successful individuals that can help bring some new energy and perspective to your nonprofit if given the opportunity.

So, that’s your task- give your board of directors the opportunity to shine.

Consider this group as more than just a governing body- they need to be the ones you turn to first to get your fundraising campaigns off the ground.

Aren’t nonprofit board members notoriously unenthusiastic about fundraising? Sometimes, yes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help them get past this. You need to make sure that your board is not only well-versed in your mission, but they wholeheartedly believe in it.

Getting your nonprofit board ‘on board’ may take some effort, but you probably already have a solid foundation (you just didn’t know it!).

“Getting your nonprofit board ‘on board’ may take some effort, but you probably already have a solid foundation…” tweet this

Consider this- there are three main reasons why a person joins a board.

  • They were asked by someone they know
  • They are passionate about the cause
  • They have experience with a similar organization or prior board work

You have to use those connections, that passion, and that experience to your advantage!

Get your board to be evangelists for your organization by following these 8 tips.

Make Education A Priority

From day one, you must be sure that your board members know your organization inside and out.

You probably hand out normal introductory documents at the start of a nonprofit board member’s first meeting, and this is great. If you want to really take your board members under your wings (hint- you do!) then you need to extend this introduction.

Schedule a meeting between your nonprofit’s leadership team and that new board member and really get to know your new stakeholder. Give them a tour of your facility or show them where services are provided or clients are served.

By seeing your work first-hand, they are bound to feel an instant connection to your cause and be able to explain it to those they encounter.

Set Concrete Goals

Be clear about personal goals for your board members from the get-go. Even before they attend the first meeting, you should lay out your expectations.

Let them know the following information:

  • Frequency and length of board meetings
  • Average meeting agenda
  • Orientation, retreats and other trainings and gatherings including special events that they are required to attend
  • Fundraising responsibilities
  • Personal fundraising goals and personal gifts
  • Participation in board development programs

The last thing you want is a board member feeling as though they have gotten in over their heads. They should be well-aware of their commitments ahead of their first official duties.

Make Meetings Meaningful

Many nonprofit board members (as well as nonprofit staff) view board meetings as inefficient gatherings, and it is true in some cases. Mismanaged nonprofits that do not properly plan may find these meetings to be- well, boring.

You have to break out of this mold and make your board meetings engaging and motivating.

Consider adding the following to your meeting agenda to create camaraderie amongst the board and bring meaning to their work:

  • Send out the agenda and minutes from the previous meeting 48 hours before the upcoming meeting.
  • Incorporate fun (not forced) team building activities
  • Have staff or key volunteers report on their work
  • Keep the agenda flowing. Don’t pile on heavy material all at once. For example, sprinkle some client success stories in after working on the budget for the next fiscal year.

Stay on purpose and on task, and you’ll have board members that don’t dread the next meeting.

Respect Their Time

Appreciating and respecting your nonprofit board member’s time is extremely important. Do this by starting and ending your meetings on time.

“Appreciating and respecting your nonprofit board member’s time is extremely important…” tweet this

Better yet, survey your members as to whether they would consider lunch or breakfast meetings. Not only are people more likely to be fresh and enthusiastic in the morning, you won’t be taking them away from their families or other after-work obligations.

Members are bound to stay on your team if you show them that you respect their time with you.

Encourage Committees

We all know that most of the work a nonprofit board does is a product of a committee. So, be sure that you are using your committees wisely.

Here are some committee pointers:

  • Encourage your board members to join a committee that they are knowledgeable and passionate about.
  • Don’t force them to join more than one unless they would like to.
  • Set clear roles for committee members versus staff, as this line can easily be muddled.

If given the opportunity, your board members will be excited about your nonprofit when they see the results they are creating through their committees.

Provide In-Depth Fundraising Training

One of the main responsibilities of board members is fundraising, and yet, it is also the one task that makes most people extremely uncomfortable.

It is your job to make it easier for them, and this can be accomplished with some training and planning.

Consider bringing in your top resource development staff or other fundraising professionals for a thorough training of the entire fundraising lifecycle. Start with the planning process, describe where the raised funds are put into the budget, dive into the different streams of revenue you rely on, and finish with the steps needed to meet the goal.

Break it down so that they don’t just know how much they have to raise, but how to do so. Have them practice their ‘sale’ with other board members if they are uncomfortable.

If you feel like the energy or heart for this sort of soliciting just isn’t there, then there are plenty of other ways these board members can help. Have them write down and then share their story as to why they are involved with your organization.

Even if they aren’t necessarily raising money, they are a part of the bigger picture of expanding awareness about your work and making friends in the process.

Your board can be great fundraisers (and evangelists) if they are given the right training.

Use A Buddy System

Like we just established, not every board member is going to be comfortable asking for donations. If they have what it takes but feel timid or inexperienced, let them pair up with other board members on fundraising meetings.

A little comfort goes a long way in keeping it about your organization and not their worries.

Show Appreciation and Enthusiasm For Their Efforts

It takes a whole lot of commitment to join a board, so show your board members the appreciation they truly deserve.

Big and small nonprofits alike can engage in the following appreciation activities:

  • Drop off food such as homemade cookies at your board member’s workplaces
  • Send out an email blast with shoutouts to board members that are working hard, new, are nearing the end of their tenure, etc.
  • Publicly acknowledge them via social media and/or your newsletter

When someone feels like they are part of a tight-knit team, they are much more likely to want to continue working with and for you.

“When someone feels like they are part of a tight-knit team, they are much more likely to want to continue working with and for you…” tweet this

You want your nonprofit board members to sing the praises of your organization to everyone they come in contact with, and that’s completely feasible if you treat them right.

By educating them on your mission, establishing clear goals, respecting their time, providing teamwork opportunities, giving thorough training, and showing constant appreciation for their efforts, you will have no problem keeping your board excited and eager to share news of your organization with the world.

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