Start Re-engaging Your Board by Using Better Technology (Including a Board Portal)
By Dustin McKissen, December 22, 2015
A Board of Directors exists to do a few things, including provide accountability to an organization, bring outside leadership and experience, and help develop and implement a strategic plan. These are important functions—really important. Accountability, leadership, and a sound strategic direction are all crucial to the success of your organization.
Board members serve a critical role, so it goes without saying that if those directors become disengaged from an organization and its mission, the organization may find itself adrift. If that happens, if a director becomes dis-engaged, is it possible to re-engage him or her?
Here are a few steps nonprofits can take to re-engage board members:
1. Take a look in the mirror.
Board disengagement can be the proverbial “canary in the coalmine” that speaks to greater organizational dysfunction. Before a nonprofit leader just assumes the Board member drifted away because of their own personal challenges or issues, conduct a thorough self-examination to see if there is anything about the organization, or even a staff member’s personal leadership style, that pushed the Director away.
Board members in the nonprofit sector are volunteers who usually have busy jobs, careers, and lives. If there is dysfunction in the organization he or she serves, or the organization’s leadership (volunteers and/or staff) are difficult to work with, it may simply be easier to just disengage.
When evaluating why a particular board member may have become disengaged, take a hard look in the mirror and assess whether or not you, your team, or other Board members may be contributing to the problem.
2. Have a cup of coffee—and a conversation.
People will often do anything to avoid directly confronting a difficult issue—despite the fact that avoiding confronting an issue doesn’t really make it go away. If you lead a nonprofit, and you avoid talking with a board member who is no longer engaged, you don’t just risk losing a board member.
You risk putting a stakeholder in the community who no longer believes in your leadership and/or your organization’s mission. That’s an awkward and difficult spot to be in—way more awkward and difficult than taking the time to sit down, have a cup of coffee, and talk about why the board member is drifting away.
3. Bring structure to their role as a board member.
Remember, again, board members are volunteers. Their time is limited. Any time they have to spend bringing order and structure to their role as a board member (for example, tracking down minutes, finding out what they were supposed to accomplish between meetings, or finding out when the next meeting is scheduled) is time they could have spent trying to advance the mission.
Having to self-manage the logistics of being a Board member is not why volunteer directors commit their time. One way to prevent this from becoming a source of disengagement is to use BoardPaq and its features that make it easier to assign and track tasks, schedule meetings, and distribute minutes.
Remember, a disengaged board member becomes an advocate against your organization.
These three steps will help bring a board member back into the fold, before that happens.