2013 New Year’s Resolutions for Board Members

It’s that time again – for turning over a new leaf, for refocusing on what’s really important, and for refreshing our commitment to good works.

And what a great idea for your board:  adopt a set of new year’s resolutions!

This list is a perennial favorite with my readers. Here it is newly updated for 2013.

A note to your board members:  Try these and see if they don’t open up some interesting discussions about expectations, attitudes and actions needed from all board members.

1.     Get more engaged.

Your nonprofit needs you to pay attention to your job as a nonprofit board member.

Nonprofits don’t need disengaged bosses.

And yes, you, as a group, are the boss – you’re the legal fiduciary guardian of your nonprofit.

The staff – through the CEO – all report to the board.

Your favorite nonprofit needs YOU to lead, to question, and to act.

Don’t be a bystander!

2.     Have a bias toward action.

Do something. Your nonprofit needs more than talk out of you.

Don’t be one of those board members who thinks his or her only job is to come to meetings and pontificate.

Look for real actions you can take to help the cause.

Ask the staff what they need you TO DO this month, this quarter, this year.

Please don’t just sit back and expect someone else to take the lead.

There’s too much at stake to just sit around and talk!

3.     Think big.

You’re not going to change the world, save the environment, feed the hungry, change your community, by thinking small.
There is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision.

A big vision helps you attract people – and resources – to your cause.

As Donald Trump once said, “if you are going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big!”

4.     Be optimistic, no matter what.

Be the board member who sees the glass half full.

Ban the handwringing and naysaying.

Negativity is self-defeating and deadening.

It wipes out energy and passion. It deadens momentum.

Be the board member who has the point of view of abundance rather than scarcity.

You’ll influence the rest.

It takes a positive, can-do attitude to change the world. Negativity will get you nowhere.

5.     Go back to your vision over and over and over.

It will keep you excited, focused, passionate, and results-oriented.

If you feel jaded or bored, ask yourself why you really care about this cause and this organization.

You’ll fan the flames of your passion and your energy.

You’ll feel deep personal satisfaction when you see the results your organization is creating in people’s lives.

6.     Be the catalyst; be the provocateur.

Challenge, challenge, challenge the status quo.

“If change is happening on the outside faster than on the inside, the end is near.” Jack Welch

Remember Jack Welch’s quote: “If the change is happening on the outside faster than it is on the inside, the end is near.”

Well, guess what – that goes for nonprofits too.  Too many nonprofits plan for the future based firmly on the past.

Be willing to ask, “Why are we doing this?”

If needed, point out the elephant in the room that everyone is too polite to mention.  Tackle the sacred cows.

7.     Make your own proud, personal gift to support your organization.

AND encourage the other board members to give.

If you don’t put your money where your mouth is, you have absolutely no credibility.

Set an example.

Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of board gifts in board meetings.

Be willing to talk to other board members about their annual commitments.

8.     Support the staff.

Ask them what they need from you.

Ask them how you can support them.

The staff is carrying the weight of enormous responsibility on their shoulders. Pay them competitive salaries.

Don’t let them overwork in the name of the cause.

Return their phone calls.  Respond to their e-mails.

Tell them what a great job they are doing.

An acknowledged, self-confident staff is a higher-performing staff.

Be sure to put your money where your mouth is, or you’ll have no credibility!

9.     Introduce 10 of your friends to your cause.

See if you can get them on your organization’s bandwagon.

You’re not asking them for money.

Instead you’re trying to get them to join the cause.

Have a porch party and invite your friends to meet your CEO.

Or  take a group on a tour of your offices or where you do your work so they can see the incredible good your organization is doing.

10. Be a “sneezer” and spread your organization’s viral news wherever you go.

Ideas are like viruses—they are contagious,  spreading from person to person.

You want to create an epidemic of good buzz about your organization all around.

All your friends, family and business associates need to know about your  passionate involvement in your cause.

Say, “Did you know that . . . ?”  or “Can you imagine that xxxx is happening in our community?”

Before you know it, they’ll be engaged and on your bandwagon!

Bottom Line:

Don’t mess around as a board member.

Don’t waste your time in meaningless meetings and committees.

Make  your service on the board meaningful. Make a difference.

There’s way, way too much at stake.

I challenge you to make it happen in 2013.

What do you think of this list? There are many more new year’s resolutions we might suggest.

Add your own resolution for your board below with your comment!

If you’d like to reprint this article in your newsletter or distribute it to your board members, it’s fine. But please link and attribute to me.

Now, let’s hear about your own resolution!

  • Ian Palmquist

    Great post, but one quibble with number one: the CEO doesn’t report to “you” the board member. He or she reports to the board as a whole. Board members who think staff report to them individually are part of the problem, not the solution.

  • gailperry

    Great point, Ian! And you definitely point out the danger in board members thinking they have individual authority over staff. Appreciate the clarification!

  • KC O

    Terrific article Gail – a must-read for every board member!

  • Kathleen C. Woulfe


  • Ian, in response to popular demand, I have corrected the post to say that “staff all report to the board” not “all report to you.” It’s a very appropriate change! Thanks for pointing out!

  • Debra West

    Okay, I shared your link with our Board. So if I get fired can I come to work for you?

  • gailperry

    Hoh my! Blame it all on me! You are innocent!

  • gailperry


  • Dinna Myers

    Oh Gail. What would I do without you? Our organization is stronger and more vital today just because I subscribe to this newsletter. You are a gift.

  • c. mabin

    As we look for more “engaged” board memebers, this list comes in right on time for sharing. Since discovering your post, I’ve always found something that’s given me a daily boost to take it to the extreme in 2013!

  • gailperry

    Dinna, Thank you – your comment just made my day. It is my greatest hope that my ideas and suggestions might help transform some boards. And that I might be able to support hard-working staff members like you!

  • gailperry

    Thanks a million. I am so glad to support you in your mission! Really mean it!

  • Vikki Gilmour

    Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!! I loved hearing,seeing and meeting you at AFP in Toronto. I want to be like you when I grow up. Better hurry as I am 52!
    Vikki Gilmour- Durham Hospice Ontario