Board Portal Engagement
How a Board Portal Can Help Create a More Engaged Board

By Dustin McKissen, December 15, 2015

Anyone who has worked for a board of directors knows the signs of a disengaged board member. Their attendance starts to wane until he or she is practically a guaranteed no-show. (And, while every board I’ve ever worked with or served on has an attendance policy, I have never actually seen a board member be removed for missing too many meetings. The reality is that most board leaders want to avoid embarrassing a colleague, and as volunteers board members simply don’t have the time or desire to risk creating conflict over attendance—however, you can avoid personalizing raising an attendance issue by using BoardPaq’s attendance tracking and reporting features.)

Even before their attendance starts to wane, a disengaged board member is just filling a seat, and not bringing the passion for the mission and strategic vision that put him or her on the board in the first place.

It’s very, very difficult to re-engage a board member once they’ve lost their passion for serving the organization. Given that, it’s important to be proactive and make sure board members stay engaged—and the best way to do that is to give directors something meaningful to do.

That underlined “meaningful” can’t be stressed enough. Don’t just give your board something to do—make sure that individual board members are involved in initiatives and projects that matter to them, and to the organization.

Here are a few tips on how to make that happen:

  1. Conduct an entrance interview. Whether directors are elected or appointed, make sure the organization has a process that entails sitting down with new directors and asking what their goals are, why they wanted to serve, and what they hope to accomplish during their board tenure. It seems simple, right?

    It is, but it’s very rare to see an organization actually do this. Be on the cutting edge, and develop a 3-5 question entrance interview for board members. You won’t regret it.
  2. Don’t make assumptions. Let’s say you have a board member who owns a successful IT company, and you need a chair for your technology committee. It makes sense to appoint that person, right? Maybe. But maybe that individual joined your board to get the opportunity to show their leadership outside of the technology realm.

    Most people, when asked to serve, want to say “yes”. However, maybe the IT company owner wanted to serve because he believes in the important role credit unions can play in lower income communities, and wants to chair the marketing committee to get that message out—and only has a limited amount of time to commit to the credit union. If that’s the case, an assumption may have just set an otherwise enthusiastic board member down the path to disengagement.
  3. Assign meaningful tasks that include deadlines. At the end of their service directors want to look back and say, “I was proud to be a part of accomplishing X.” The worst experience a Director can have is to say, “I went to a lot of meetings, but nothing seemed to get done.”

    Getting something done requires structure and accountability—two concepts that are at the core of BoardPaq’s solution. The task assignment feature is one of the many tools BoardPaq offers that help keep board members engaged.

Struggling with board engagement? Find out what matters to your board members and what they hope to accomplish, assign meaningful tasks, and utilize tools that help make accomplishing those tasks a little easier.


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Dustin McKissen is the founder of McKissen + Company, an association management and marketing firm. He is a Certified Association Executive and has served as an executive or consultant to a wide variety trade associations, professional societies, and nonprofits.
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