Although in principle they are a well-willing bunch of people, it is worth putting some thought into how to use their goodwill and often limited time most effectively for your organisation's fundraising goals. Without a strategy for proper engagement, you run the risk of your board being at best a high-level think tank and at worst a disruptive force within the organisation.
The following five steps should help you get more out of your Board:
1. Engage them. Even though you might expect your Board members to be 'on board' with regard to the work of your organisation, it won't hurt to remind them what your organisation is all about. Share your vision and your enthusiasm. Share success stories. Make them 'get' it.
2. Brief them. Give them big picture updates on your organisation's fundraising goals, what you are doing to achieve them, how successful you are and what challenges you need to overcome. If they are expected to host or attend events, then brief them as you would brief your Chief Executive or senior staff. In order to be effective advocates for your organisation they need to know the big stuff (what your organisation's 5-year fundraising priorities are) and the detail (the job and interests of the person they are sitting next to at a cultivation dinner).
3. Give them a job. Choose something that suits their skills, interests, network and resources. Some Board members love to host events - think fundraising dinners, thank-you receptions - in their homes or offices. Others can use their network to make connections with individuals or trusts you are approaching for funding. Some may be able to make sizeable donations themselves.
4. Catch up with them - and not just at the annual Board Meeting. Have regular opportunities for feedback and make sure that they remember to do what they committed themselves to doing.
5. Thank them. Remember they are giving up their free time to help your organisation.
Are you getting the best out of your Board?