Board Chairs: Fire-Up Your Board with a Call to Action!

It’s wonderful to see a board chair assume rightful leadership and challenge her board members to action.  Here’s a brilliant example of excellent leadership from a nonprofit board chair.

Call to Action!I’m on the board of our local AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) chapter here in North Carolina’s Research Triangle. (If you don’t know about AFP, you need to join!

Our wonderful board chair, Eli Jordfald, took on a personal priority this year – to reinvent our annual “National Philanthropy Day” celebration in November.

If this “reinvention” was going to happen, Eli needed every single one of us board members to commit to a part in making this successful.  With only a part-time staff person, we rely on our board volunteers to make it happen.  So if we didn’t pull through, then we wouldn’t even have an event.

Eli send out an email last week with the subject line: “Call to Action.”  Take a look at this professional and very specific note to her board members.

She was not necessarily “asking for help.” Instead it was “rallying the troops.”

How long has it been since you issued a Call to Action to your board,  your staff or your volunteers? These words alone get immediate attention.

Good morning,

Our NPD committees have been working diligently to re-invent NPD for the
Triangle.  I’m proud of their efforts and the incredible creativity they
have brought to the event planning.

The ultimate success of NPD will depend on the community’s response and we, as board members, must lead by example.

*This week, I am asking each of you to consider how you
personally (and your organization) can participate.
Please consider
these 3 opportunities to help your donors, volunteers, your cause, and
AFP shine:

* Commit to a table of 10 at the non-profit, special rate of $400 to
honor an outstanding volunteer
* Nominate one, two or more donors and volunteers in any of the
categories Bert’s committee recently announced.  It’s so easy and
you can do it on-line.  Lineberger is nominating in two categories
this year
* Help secure a sponsor at the $500 or $1000 levels.  Jeff has
turn-key packets for you to personalize for your prospect

I would like to ask each of you to either reply to all or send me an
e-mail indicating to what extent you are able to commit to one, two or
all three of the above*
.  It will boost our “ask” to others to step up.
It will also help us get an early snap shot of what our board
participation will be.

I appreciate all that you do to make our chapter excellent and look
forward to hearing back from you by the end of the week.

Warm regards, Eli

Here are the things that she did right in this note:

1. She made it clear that “we, as board members, must lead by example.”  I can’t think of another way to say this more plainly!  She reminded us of our responsibility as board members.

2. Her tone (attitude toward us) was correct: she was not lecturing us; she was not wagging her finger like a schoolmarm.

3. Her request was professional and business-like – she was not pleading or begging or manipulating. She simply requested plainly and succinctly, treating us as the capable professionals we all are.

4. Her words were inspirational. She rallied us to our higher purpose and reminded us of what we all wanted to accomplish.

5. She is putting her money where her mouth is and leading by example. She let us know that her organization is buying a table.

6. She gave us clear actions we needed to take and a choice of actions.

7. She asked us to respond to her personally, not to someone else. That way you know that she herself is keeping tabs on who is doing what.

8. She gave us a deadline to respond to her. That way there was a clear time frame for us to take action.

This is the right way to motivate and activate your own board. Give it a try and you’ll get some great results.

Tell you what – I’ll let you know how this Call to Action did as we go forward. I, for one, leapt to action. I have already made two sponsorship solicitations and will do more!

Can you share an experience when a board chair issued a Call to Action?  Let’s hear your own stories!

  • Jen LaRoe

    How does a part-time staff of one motivate her board chair to “rally the troops”?

  • Jen, you’re in an interesting position. Maybe if your board chair is not so energetic, try this:
    ID all the people on your board who have the potential to be “spark plugs” and meet with them individually. Engage them in a big-picture discussion about what’s possible for your organization. See if you can activate them and ask them point-blank to help you rally the troops.

  • Asako Gabriel Bessy

    We are just setting up a Non-Governmental Organization on Raising Awareness and Campaign for Career Development and Potential Maximization for Secondary and Post-secondary School students in my country. I’m the Executive Director of our four men board members. We envisioned covering the Entire country in the nearest future but we are kicking off with concentration on four states. My major worry is how to draw out the board member that will probably be from the six geo-political zones of the country without having the problem of distance barrier to effective board members. Also, I’m considering the financial implication of this idea of bringing them from different locations without losing the impacts and benefits their geographical locations may bring to our organization. Can you help with us with your professional guidance?

  • Hi Asako, congrats on your fabulous cause! To answer: What are the expectations of the board member who is from the other zones of your country? If you can be really clear of what this board member actually needs to be doing, you will be closer to a solution. Also, ask him too what he thinks the solution might be.

    Re your issue of covering large distances, it IS a big financial issue for organizations with far-flung board members. What exactly do you need regarding “the impacts and benefits of their various locations?” What actions are required? Lots of time if you can drill down to the questions of what people actually need to be doing, you can solve these murky questions.
    Good luck!