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Strategic methods to motivate your nonprofit board members

June 28, 2021
Three nonprofit professionals discuss methods to motivate board members.

Your nonprofit organization’s board members serve many important functions, including determining your purpose, overseeing your financial operations, and promoting your nonprofit in the community. While this can be a lot of work, the good news is that your nonprofit’s board is invested in your organization’s long-term success. By using strategic methods to motivate board members, you’ll be able to keep them engaged and improve your organization as a whole.

Set expectations for board members

The key to having an actively engaged board lies in the expectations and tasks that the nonprofit staff set for them. Host meetings with board members and discuss how they can support your organization through:

  • Sustaining a culture of giving. Inform the board what the expectation around them giving to your nonprofit is in terms of frequency and amount.
  • Hosting events. If the board is expected to host an event or even multiple in a year, inform new board members so they can begin brainstorming and organizing these events.
  • Upholding board traditions. Some boards have traditions, such as buying a table at the nonprofit’s annual gala. Give them details about relevant events and why these traditions are important.

Ask your board chair, nonprofit CEO, or advancement director to help you conduct these conversations. To improve performance and further motivate board members, discuss these expectations when they first join.

Have clear goals and roles for each board member

After you establish general expectations for all board members, you can get specific and set goals and roles for each individual board member. Some nonprofits have developed a board “scorecard” or “tracking” document mutually agreed upon by the board member and the organization. It helps formalize the kinds of help you hope to receive from the board member and clarifies expectations for all parties involved.

You can go over these documents during a short training session with your board members. Discuss your nonprofit’s purpose, goals, and key aspects of the kinds of activities they can assist with. Have brainstorming sessions to craft individual elevator pitches or draft volunteers to role-play a prospect introduction or visit. You can film these activities to share as short training videos for future board members.

Another way to establish what a specific board member’s role should be is to examine what board members have done in previous years. Evaluate if continuing with previous responsibilities will be beneficial for your nonprofit and set goals accordingly. Setting clear objectives will motivate board members to continue bettering your nonprofit by giving them something concrete to work towards.

Drive home your nonprofit’s purpose with your board

You may also motivate board members by asking them to promote your nonprofit’s purpose beyond the boardroom. Your board members joined to support and serve, and are often willing to partner with your administration to reach out to the greater community. Because they are passionate about your nonprofit, your board members will be able to take their passion into their interactions with new prospects and get them excited about engaging with your nonprofit.

One way you can have your board promote your nonprofit’s purpose is by having them participate in donor and supporter outreach and communications. Most of the time, phone calls and handwritten letters to supporters are handled by staff or volunteers. Request that your board take over for a few hours. Interacting with donors in this manner will allow board members to see how impactful your nonprofit is to other individuals and will help motivate them further. Additionally, donors will be flattered to receive communications from a board member.

Board members who can raise awareness for your nonprofit and represent its goals and values in articulate, compelling ways are great advertisers for you. They serve as new, and often unexpected, voices of support who can increase fundraising simply by sharing the message that your organization is worthy of support!

Engaging nonprofit board members

Engaging and challenging board members to serve your nonprofit with specific tasks and goals can greatly impact your nonprofit’s fundraising and outreach efforts. Ensure that you touch base with your board members every so often about their responsibilities. Ask what they think they could be directing their efforts toward to improve your nonprofit. If their suggestions are sound, allow them to pursue them. This will help motivate board members and increase their commitment to your nonprofit organization.

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