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Board member recognition: 6 standout ideas for nonprofits

May 12, 2021
Two businesspeople shake hands while a group of onlookers applaud, representing the importance of board member recognition.

Board members provide oversight for your nonprofit organization, approve your initiatives and campaigns, and help your nonprofit stay focused on your goals. They also play a key role in fundraising and are usually recurring donors themselves.

With all of these duties and responsibilities, board members work hard to further your nonprofit’s purpose. To maintain the value of your board, your nonprofit organization needs to dedicate time and effort to showing appreciation for its members. Recognize your board’s hard work and dedication with these six ideas.

1. Write them thank-you notes

Writing a thank-you note to board members may seem like a simple recognition strategy, but it requires attention to detail to be effective.

Take your thank-you notes to the next level with these tips:

  • Write the card by hand. Taking the extra time and effort needed to put a pen to paper shows that you personally care about the individual board member. Handwritten notes also allow for more customization than cards created using a template.
  • Include personal details. Address the card with their preferred name and title, reference specific individual achievements, and add other information unique to each member. 
  • Be sincere. Craft a heartfelt message that recognizes the board member’s hard work at the level it deserves to be recognized.

Thank-you notes hold more power than you might think, and tailoring each one shows just how important your board is to your nonprofit’s purpose. 

2. Publicly recognize them

Public board member recognition has several benefits for your organization. It not only shows members that you appreciate their work, but it also increases transparency and builds trust with supporters as they get to see who is making important decisions for your nonprofit organization.

A few ways to recognize your board members publicly include:

  • Spotlighting them on your nonprofit's website and in your newsletter.
  • Posting about their professional achievements on your organization’s social media accounts.
  • Introducing them to donors at fundraising events.

Board members might have different preferences when it comes to public recognition. Make sure to gain permission from your board members before you recognize them publicly.

3. Host appreciation events and retreats

Board members dedicate lots of time and effort to your organization. Why not provide them with an opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company?

An annual appreciation event or retreat shows that you value your board’s dedication to your nonprofit organization over the past year. Your board will also work more effectively together when members are given the chance to bond and build connections outside of formal meetings. 

4. Solicit feedback

Soliciting feedback from board members ensures that your staff and board are on the same page about your nonprofit’s goals and strategies, which allows your organization to run smoothly. You can ask board members for their feedback in several ways, including:

  • Revisiting the topics on board meeting agendas and discussing next steps with members who take the lead on action items.
  • Conducting periodic one-on-one check-in meetings with board members to gauge their opinions about your organization’s direction.
  • Sending out short surveys after members donate or attend events to improve their experience as supporters.

Knowing that their opinions matter to your nonprofit organization, board members will feel empowered to bring new ideas to the table that can improve your nonprofit’s operations. By soliciting member feedback, you’ll be able to apply their ideas as you work towards your nonprofit’s goals and show members how much you value their contributions.

5. Nominate them for awards

Recognize your board members’ specific accomplishments by nominating them for awards. Internally, you could create a “Board Member of the Year” award to give to a member who has gone above and beyond for your organization. When you present the award, mention their specific contributions to explain why they’re receiving this special recognition.

You could also choose to nominate your board members for leadership or community service awards outside of your nonprofit. Doing so will increase your organization’s visibility in the community in addition to showing support and appreciation for your board members. 

Additionally, if board members know that they could win awards for outstanding achievements, it may inspire them to work even more diligently for your nonprofit’s purpose.

6. Give them gifts on special occasions  

In addition to nominating your board members for awards based on their accomplishments, use awards to recognize their years of service to your nonprofit organization. Keep track of the date that each member joined your board, and present them with a formal award for major anniversaries, such as five or 10 years on the board.

You should also keep track of each board member’s birthday so you can send them a card and a small gift on their special day. Remembering personal details about your board members like this shows that you care about them as individuals.

A final note about board member recognition

As you try out these ideas for board member recognition, make note of members’ responses. Over time, adjust your strategy as needed to find what works best to show each member of your nonprofit board that they matter.

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