Do your board members know what to say when they have a lucky moment?
I bet many of them are unsure of themselves when they get a chance to have a conversation about your wonderful organization.
Once a board member asked me, “What do I SAY about our organization?”
Here’s what I told her:
“Talk about why you care.”
“Aha,” said the board member, walking away smiling, “of course!”
Part of every board member’s training needs to be work on their own personal elevator speech.
I’m not talking about the “three main marketing messages” or your mission statement. (boring!)
I’m not even talking about a rehearsed, point by point elevator speech that everybody memorizes.
The problem with those strategies is that your board members will probably forget them when they need them.
They will never forget why they care.
That’s an impact statement at the highest level.
It’s something they carry with them wherever they go.
And they always know that story. Because it’s deep in their hearts.
Here’s a powerful, terrific exercise that will help your board members develop their own personal elevator speech – and have fun doing it.
Multiple objectives in this exercise:
Not only does this give board members training and practice in an important skill, but it also:
- Gets the board members talking to each other.
- Wakes up their passion and energy, and engages them in the cause.
- Reconnects them with the reason they are taking the time out of their busy lives to serve on the board.
- Builds a sense of camaraderie and closeness among the board members.
- Adds some fun to their experience as board members.
- Boosts their morale, and sets them up to take action.
Best yet, it is a team-building exercise, too.
I begin every single one of my “Easy Fundraising for Board Members” retreats with this exercise – and it never fails. People love it!
Here’s what you do. Ask them this simple question:
“Why do you personally care about our organization?”
It’s a pretty unusual question because board members don’t often get a chance to talk about why they care.
They are too busy doing business and being efficient.
In the interest of using their time wisely, we often don’t take the time to go deeper and touch their hearts.
We rarely ask them about their OWN story.
I am always amazed and pleased with what this question evokes in people. It helps them get back in touch with that deep caring they have in their hearts for your cause.
Here’s how I set up this most important conversation so that no one is self conscious or feels put on the spot.
It’s a casual “mingle exercise.”
Board members just mingle around the room and share their own perspective with other trustees.
How to set this exercise up:
1. Ask your board members what they would say if someone asked them why they cared enough to serve on this board. If they ran into someone at work or socially, what would they say? What speaks to you deeply about our work?
2. Give them a few moments to write down some notes to themselves – what would they really say if given the chance?
3. Then tell them in just a minute we will ask everyone in the room to get up out of their chairs, find a partner, and share these thoughts with FOUR other board members.
4. Explain the exercise:
- You’ll find a partner.
- Introduce yourself in case they may not know you well.
- Then share your story.
- Each person should take about 30 seconds.
- I’ll keep time and call out “Change partners!” when it’s time to find another partner.
5. Then launch them: “Everybody up!” Have them stand up, find someone to talk to, and share their perspective briefly with four other board members, one after the other.
How to debrief when everyone is finished:
Ask these questions:
- What was their experience like? Let different people talk.
- What were they saying?
- How were they being?
- Was it easy or difficult?
- Was it fun or awful?
- What did you learn from other board members?
I love this exercise for so many reasons.
It’s informal. It’s fun.
And it’s remarkably productive on multiple levels.
When the board members talk repeatedly about what sparks their enthusiasm for your organization’s work, they are re-igniting their own passion as they speak.
The board members also learn from other board members.
They get great energy from the other folks in the room; and they enjoy themselves.
When you do this exercise, you’ll be surprised by the excitement and fun that it generates. You’ll see people laughing and smiling.
Board members love to talk to each other and they rarely get the chance.
It’s a great energy boost and refreshing shift away from boring board meetings.
AND it’s the best morale booster I’ve ever seen.
When they are re-inspired by their own passion for the cause, board members are now ready to go to work.
Because they get back in touch with the deeper issue of why they care, then they are much more ready to tackle the work at hand with vigor – and commitment.
I’ll bet that if you do this before a meeting, you’ll find that it’s one of the best meetings you’ve ever had with this group.
At least that’s what some of my fundraising friends say who have put this conversation in front of their board.
Try it and post a comment here to let me know how it worked!