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Board Members’ #1 Job: How to Be A Personal Advocate For Your Cause

If you are a board member, I bet you are excited and passionate about your favorite organization. elevator speech pic man woman

I’m willing to bet that you joined the board because you really, really believed in the cause.

It meant a lot to you.

But when you try to talk to your friends about your organization’s work, do you know what to say?

Maybe yes, maybe no.

I find lots of board members simply don’t know what to say when they have the chance to spread the word about their organization.

They would love to help, but many are not quite sure how to do it.

On my part, I think this is the ONE JOB ALL BOARD MEMBERS need to do – all the time.

EVERY SINGLE board member needs to be able to spread the word.

And they need to do it  to it willingly and enthusiastically.

I find that board members would love to be personal advocates for their organization.

If you could tell your best friend about your cause, what would you say?

If you could tell your best friend about your cause, what would you say?

Wouldn’t you love to help create BUZZ in the community about what your organization is up to?

Wouldn’t this be a pretty easy job?

When I serve on a board, this is what I try to do all the time – with everybody I run into.

I try to drum up support. I try to engage people in conversations about the issue we are tackling. I try to spread the BUZZ.

But sometimes I feel awkward. I grapple for the right words and phrases that convey our important work.

I am always looking for a fact, or something to share that might be interesting to the person I am taking to.

I’m not talking about a “pitch” here – I am taking about how to introduce or open up the conversation.

This is a lot like an elevator speech – but it’s a little more in depth. You can learn how to create your own elevator speech here and here.

It’s really up to your staff and board leaders to help you refine your talking points.

Here’s how to get some practice talking about your organization:

Why don’t you engage your staff and board leaders in a discussion about What To Say:

  • What IS going on at your organization?
  • What ARE your biggest challenges right now?
  • What ARE you tackling this year in your community, region or the world?
  • Why IS it so urgent?  What IS at stake?

I don’t know about you but I think this is interesting stuff.

I think devoting your next board meeting to a full-scale discussion of these topics would be an extremely valuable exercise. Right?

And it would give you “meat” to talk about when you run into someone who might be a potential friend, supporter or donor to your cause.

Why don’t you ask your staff and board leaders to spend some time with all the board members working on these messages? I can’t think of more valuable board member training myself.

I like to know just what to say that will captivate my friend's interest.

I like to know just what to say that will captivate my friend’s interest.

And here’s another way your organization can equip you with some cool stories and talking points that you can put in your own words:

Experience Some “Mission Moments”

What’s a mission moment?

It’s a chance for you to see and experience personally your organization’s wonderful work.

Right there in front of you.

It’s when the mission comes right up and smacks you in the face.

It’s when you see something that just might break your heart.

AND when you have a direct, personal experience – in front of your eyes – you have something you can share with all your friends:

  • “You won’t believe what I saw last night . . “
  • “Did you know that there are people in our community  . . . ?
  • “I can’t imagine the situation . . .”
  • “I am so amazed that . . “.

Why not cancel your next board meeting, and take everybody on a FIELD TRIP instead? (I bet it would be more productive!)

Turn Your Board Members Into Sneezers!

What’s a “sneezer?” It’s someone who spreads the viral message about your organization.

Remember the basic idea about viral marketing? It’s when messages become contagious.

They even turn into an epidemic! (See Seth Godin’s important book, “Unleashing the Idea Virus.”)

So when board members sneeze, what happens?

They spread a happy viral message all over your community.  They create a cheerful contagious epidemic of good news about your cause wherever they go.

When I work with boards, I tell board members that they get to “sneeze” all over everybody they know.

They get it! And they love it!

BOTTOM LINE

The number one job for a board member is to be a PERSONAL ADVOCATE for the cause.

Too often staff and board leaders ignore this most important job.

If you are a board member, you deserve some help and training so you can be a SNEEZER!

Are YOU a good sneezer?

How have YOU helped your board members become better advocates to spread the word?  Leave a comment and let me know here!

 

 

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  • Claire Axelrad

    I love the idea of turning some board meetings over to these discussions that will help board members feel educated enough about the organization to speak with ease. I also always suggest that board members get out into the field to see the work being done. Setting up some “tour opportunities” is a good way to accomplish this. And they can even bring a friend! Thanks Gail.

  • gailperry

    Thanks for your comment Claire! I sit on a board that discussed for 2 whole hours “what do we do and how exactly do we do it.” And the board members LOVED it!