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4 Questions To Rev Up Your Board’s Energy and Enthusiasm

Do you want to get the most out of your warm-hearted, wonderful volunteers?

Do you wish you could generate more enthusiasm among your board members?

In my work with boards around the country, I’ve found some magic questions that can awaken their enthusiasm and energy.

In fact, I am constantly amazed at how easy it is to help them get back in touch with their passion for the cause.

Ask your board members these questions and see what happens:

Question #1: Why do you care about our organization?

When board members ponder this question, guess what:

  • They get happy.
  • They get enthusiastic.
  • They feel their deep commitment.
  • They go back to the deeper stuff of emotion and energy.

HOT TIP:

All the studies show that it’s emotion that generates action. Data and logic do not compel action.

But get someone hot and bothered and emotional about something – and watch out! Clear the way!

You can read HOW I set up a discussion of this question among board members here – and I really do get some amazing results.

Question #2: Why is our organization’s work important?

Here you are drilling down even further into emotion. Here you are evoking a discussion about impact.

This question conveys images of suffering or needy people who want and need the help that your organization is bringing to them.

Another way to ask this question is: What difference do we make in the world?

HOT TIP:

Be sure you let your board members do the talking when you ask these questions!

They are not going to get their emotions revved up unless THEY are actively engaged in the conversation.

It’s got to be a discussion that every single person participates in – that’s the way to evoke personal emotion.

Question #3: What do you want as a board member? And what do you not want?

We spend so much time thinking about what our board members can do for us – that we rarely stop to consider what we can do for them.

June Bradham, in her terrific book, The Truth About What Nonprofit Boards Want, found that the single largest indicator of board giving was how they rated the “quality” of their experience.

She said, “Great board experience leads to increased desire to contribute.”

So ask your board members what they want out of their experience as a board member.

You just might be surprised! And they will be amazed that you thought enough to ask.

They might say things like these (from June’s book and research):

  • We want to work with passionate, committed people.
  • We want social time so we can meet the other board members.
  • We want to get our hands dirty and get close to our organization’s work.
  • We want more education and training.
  • We want your operations to be transparent – don’t hide things from us.
  • We don’t want any surprises.

HOT TIP:

Be sure your board members are getting what they want out of serving on the board and that they are having a terrific experience.

They will be happy and much more enthusiastic. And you’ll get more out of them.

Question 4: What kind of training and education do you want?

You may be surprised to hear that your board members want more training and education. But on what topics?

Penelope Burk’s recent Cygnus 2011 Donor Survey (that I wrote about last week), found that board members wanted more training in fundraising.

Board members in her survey said they wanted training in:

  • How to inspire donors to make larger gifts
  • How to interact confidently with donors in a tough economy
  • How to initiate conversations with donors
  • How to work in teams effectively in asking for gifts

HOT TIP:

Be sure to give your board members fundraising training.

I work all over the continent helping boards work on their elevator speeches, learn how to talk to donors, how to get the door open, how to prep a donor for an ask, how to ask successfully, and find out how donors are behaving differently these days.

And board members love it!

They are often fascinated (no kidding)  by this material.

This past week I worked with the board chairs of the YMCA’s in the state of Illinois, and they were on the edge of their seats the whole time – eager and interested.

Give your board members this kind of training, and they will be ready to go to work in fundraising!

Here’s a question: what do you think YOUR board members want?

Leave a comment and let me know:

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  • Leslie M Frost

    Gail:  You always manage to boil things down to just a few key points, and you are always right!  Thanks for being so generous with your thoughts and links to other great info. 

  • Susan Sachs

    tx 4 this totally on target sucinct piece – keep the wisdom coming! 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Leslie! hope this helps. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Susan! What do the board members YOU work with want out of their experience? 

  • Anonymous

    Awesome list, Gail! I agree with the training advice…and I often label it: development training rather than fundraising training. Feels a little less scary to some. Thanks for the great questions.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome list, Gail! I agree with the training advice…and I often label it: development training rather than fundraising training. Feels a little less scary to some. Thanks for the great questions.