New Year’s Resolutions for Board Members

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

Here are some great New Year’s resolutions for nonprofit board members.

If you do these, you’ll set an example and be a “spark plug” for your organization – and you’ll also help make the world a better place through your favorite nonprofit.

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 are the boss – you’re the legal fiduciary guardian of your nonprofit. The staff – through the CEO – report to you. Your favorite nonprofit needs YOU to lead, to question, and to act!

2.     Have a bias towards action.

Do something. Your nonprofit needs more than talk out of you. Don’t be one of those board members who think his or her only job is to come to meetings and pontificate a bit.

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.

3.     Think big.

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

You attract people – and resources – to your cause.  Energy is everything when you are trying to create change.

4.     Be optimistic, no matter what.

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!

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.  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.  Be willing to examine your nonprofit’s business model if needed.

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.  A self-confident staff will perform at a high level.

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 out in the field to show them the good work 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!

I challenge you to MAKE IT HAPPEN in 2011. There’s too much at stake!

Don’t be bystander. Make it happen!

And let me know what you think with a comment!

If you’d like to reprint this article in your newsletter or distribute it to your board members, it’s fine. But do let me know.

  • Thanks, I will definitely distribute at the January board meeting.

  • Joyce Crowe

    I am going to reprint this list and distribute it at our “Strategic Planning” meeting next Saturday. Thank you for all you helpful tips!!

  • Gail
    These are great reminders! We are blessed with a very engaged board. Even so, I will share it with our board and keep your list as an on-going reminder. It is also a great resource for our new board member orientation each year! I especially love the “sneezer” analogy!
    Happy New Year!
    Mary Holmes

  • Hi Gail,
    This article is VERY good! Thank you for allowing me to use it to FIRE UP my board members! It is the perfect document to do that!
    Happy 2011 to you and yours!

  • Dear Gail,
    I have forwarded your e-mail to our Ohio Genealogical Society Board and Chairs for them to read and consider over the weekend. I’ve asked them to prepare their list so that they can discuss it at our next meeting. I will reprint it for the one member who does not have e-mail.
    I like all of your suggestions. Thanks so much.
    Sunda Anderson Peters, President

  • Patricia Lawler

    Thanks, Gail! These are great ideas to share with all board members – and a wonderful way to start 2011.

  • Carol Teal

    Fabulous article. These are just the 10 things I need to propel me into 2011 with energy and determination. Thanks Gail.

  • I love this. I definitely will be sending it out to my board first thing on Monday! thank you for it.

  • Gail,
    Well put! Thanks for sharing your ideas. I passed the weblink along to the rest of the Charlotte Affiliate of Susan G Komen Board of Directors and expect that they will embrace the concepts.
    Our best to you in 2011,

  • Gail,
    Yes! Great ideas! When I serve on boards, I try to remember these. I am going to share this with our Executive Director and ask him to share with our board. Excellent!

  • This is great! I will pass this on to my Board President with hopes that it will be shared with the entire Board of Directors of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network. I particularly like the “Introduce 10 of your friends to the cause”, since I challange my Board to sign up 10 new members every year.
    Nancy Finegood
    Executive Director
    Michigan Historic Preservation Network

  • Thanks, I am forwarding these great suggestions to the Board of Directors of the Conservation Leaders Network (the only group in the country that focuses on rallying county commissioners to protect America’s natural resources). Peg

  • Gail,
    Thank you for the timely and interesting article. I plan to repost to my business facebook page and share it with my board members at our first meeting of the new year! Keep the info coming! I look to you and your articles as a motivating factor when working with my board and non-proft. Here’s to a successful 2011!

  • Gail, great ideas. Thanks for sending them to me and lots of others.

  • Diane

    Amazing! Can’t believe that in these 10 Steps you so closely identified our board. I will share to give them the inspiration they need to move forward. Thanks for including step 8: Support Your Staff.

  • Gail,

    These are great tips! You’re spot on with each suggestion, and I was especially glad to see your suggestions about thinking big, having a bias toward action, and supporting staff. So often those three areas are overlooked for one reason or another and have significant negative impact on organizations.

    Lucky for me, this article is very timely. I’m preparing a conference presentation on board engagement and will now be quoting you!


  • richard nichols

    Thanks, just what I needed to help revitalze myself! I will e-mail this to the entire board of our Campus Ministry. Richard

  • As always Gail, thanks for the wisdom and encouragement. Brilliant!

  • Gail,

    Thanks for making this available. Our Board Governance Committee is currently using “Enlist Your Dream Board” worksheets for Board recruitment, development and growth. These resolutions can only add to our efforts. Thanks again for sharing.

  • Trish Powell

    Gail, thanks! I will be sharing this with my board at our strategic planning meeting this month.

  • Thanks for the great article. I hope to share it with our board at our February meeting.

  • Deborah Johnson


    Spot on! Thanks again for great tips to start the new year. I will be sharing with my board at our next gathering.

    Deborah Johnson

  • Thanks for the tips. I will pass these on to my BOD. They are interested in fundraising, though I think most will prefer your helpful designation of “friendraising.” I appreciate your valuable insights.- Bruce

  • Great article .. will definitely share with my BOD

  • These are excellent suggestions! In fact, I would like to share these in my Nonprofit Insight Newsletter.

  • Thanks Mary, happy for you to share, just include a live link back to my site. cheers – Gail

  • HI Deborah, Bruce and Jennifer! So glad you find the ideas helpful! Let me know how it goes with your board members! : )

  • Gary, really glad the Dream Team board material is working for you. And thanks Trish and Carolyn – glad you liked the article – be sure to let me know what your board members say!

  • Thanks Tammy! appreciate the compliment! 🙂

  • Our board just completed a strategic planning session and redefined our mission and vision. These are a perfect compliment to that hard work and commitment! Thanks so much!

  • Gail:
    Will share this with my board president and campaign cabinet chair for our Jan. meetings. I have purchased your book “Fired-Up Fundraising and will pass around for others to read. Thanks for your energy!

  • Thanks for the uplifting message for the board. We’ll use it this month! I’m sure it will get some discussion.

  • Connie Emerson

    Good article and I would like to share it with my board.

  • Dawn

    Gail – Thanks much for the resolutions – I look forward to sharing them with my fellow Board members.

  • Kim

    Hi Gail,

    This is good info. I especially love the 10th one and would like to share it with my board. Thank you! Kim

  • Gail – you hit so many nails on the head I can’t keep up! Thank you and thank you for allowing people to share your thoughts! Julia

  • La

    Hi Gail–
    Great insights! Will be forwarding on to the board!

  • Cristal Evans

    These are great reminders and will encourage my already “engaged” Board. Some resolutions maybe new to think about and others can simply be continued. I do plan to print these for my Board members. As always, I appreciate your very practical, easy to understand and well stated ideas.

  • GREAT List Gail!
    It reminds me in many ways of the board practices I try to live by:

    And I’m LOL about being a sneezer. An image I won’t get out of my mind.

  • Thanks so much Gayle – the sneezer idea is from – who else – Seth Godin. I need to check out your 12 practices too!

  • These area fabulous ideas. I am going to share them with my board this month. Thank you so mcuh.

  • Very good stuff, Gail! Now, if all nonprofits would just make a copy to pass on to their board members there would be some great things happening. 🙂 P.S. I love that sneezer comment too.

  • Stephanie Pritzker

    Thank you – wonderful article! I plan to hand it out at our January board meeting.

  • Thanks, Gail

    It is off to the board with deliberate speed!

  • robyn schwager

    I’m joining the rest of my colleagues who have already chimed in and intend to share the list with my board at the next meeting. we could all use a good kick start in January and this should do it! thanks for giving us permission is advance to share.

  • Thanks Gail, I’m hoping to use this to get our board fired up for 2011!

  • Paige Nagle

    Thank you for the tips! Will be sharing this will our CEO and hope to have it passed on to our board!

  • Joanne

    Thank you for this article, Gail. We will be sharing with our Board at our next meeting. We’re a hospital in a Toronto suburb, so your reach is far!

  • Mitch

    Thanks for the great suggestions. I’m forwarding this to my fellow board members.

  • Good and timely advice, Gail. Thanks so much! I have forwarded to our board.

  • Patricia

    Thank you for putting together what I’ve often thought, but have never put together in such a succinct form (and even if I had and then presented it, I’m sure it wouldn’t get the respect it would as it does coming from you! I will be sharing with the board, and I hope it inspires and motivates them… and gives them some positive ways to move forward.

  • Great post Gail. It is so inspiring and energizing. And obviously needed, evident by all the comments that the posts will be going on to others. I want to say thank you for being the voice of the issues that we all want to share with our boards. You give nonprofits a way to start the conversation without being confrontational.

  • Great stuff Gail. I’m President of the Board Of Directors of the Robert Russa Moton Museum. We were addressing those very issues in our meeting last. This will help immensely. We are struggling with getting board members to understand that we really need them to work outside of the monthly meetings and focus on fundraising. Thanks you so much for sharing. We will share this with our Board.

  • Maxine Elliott

    This is great, Gail. Just what I need for a workshop I am presenting to a Board next week. And for another one the following week. Perfect for January Board training & orientation. Thanks for your dedication to our nonprofits.

  • A fantastic post, Gail!

    Where board members are concerned — and I believe they are (or should be) concerned with every aspect of a nonprofit’s advancement — your 10 resolutions get to the heart of everything I try to “preach” to boards every day.

    Cannot think of any additional resolutions I suggest for the list, except maybe to urge board members to “take ownership” of every aspect of the advancement process — from building constituency, articulating the case (PR/communications) and cultivating and managing relationships, to the all-important philanthropy initiatives. By that I mean not that they should meddle or supplant the staff, but that they should be fully engaged at all times as ambassadors, advocates and fund-raisers. And that’s actually part of your resolution #1.

    Maybe the only other thing I’d recommend is that board members resolve to check this resolutions list at least once each week all year. Reinforcement!

    Great list! Happy New Year!

  • Thanks Raymond! Maybe I should re-write this into the 10 Habits of Highly Successful Boards?? : )

  • Marilou Cruz

    What a great reminder! There are many small things we can do that would sum up to big leaps when done consistently by everybody. We just need to think outside the box and go for it!

  • Gail! Great idea, but Jerry Panas might have a comment or two! [lol]

    I still want to ask board members to glance at the resolutions on a weekly basis all year!

    Funny how the bread-and-butter basics can be so important and so forgotten by so many.

  • WONDERFUL article! We will be sharing this with our Adminsitrative and Endowment Boards at our January meetings. Concise & well put!

  • Juniper

    Thanks for this wisdom, Gail. I plan to share it with the Austin Zen Center board of directors tonight.

  • Thanks for this article and many others. You often inspire us!

  • Sandra Woodard


    Thanks for the great article. I would like to distribute to Roanoke-Chowan Foundation Board members.


  • Thank you for this gem. It is often that we need to stop and reflect on what is going right and what is going in the wrong direction. This is a great conversation starter and I thank you for the opportunity to share it with our board! Thanks you for your wisdom and your words. hope it provides a great opportunity for dialogue and some sparks for action!

  • Hi Gail – loved this list. Included a link in my February Coffee Break e-news. Thanks for this great post. It’s February and it lives on!

  • Alicia

    Thanks for this Gail. I am going to include it in our Chapter Leadership Training we are holding next week.

    Alicia Dover
    Director of Operations
    PHCC Texas

  • Liz Wheeler

    Gail, these comments are great.  Thank you for letting us use the resolutions — I did change the 2011 year to 2012!   These will appear under the caption “KEYS TO SUCCESS” inserted into the December newsletter for our  group, SOVA — Southeastern Orchestra Volunteer Association. 

    Many thanks for all you do for so many.     Liz Wheeler, SOVA President

  • Lisa Moore

    This is my first visit to your site.  Looks very interesting.  A lot to digest!  My group is timid.  We DO need to get fired up… Thanks for the insight.  I might present these at our January Board meeting.  Or maybe at our summer leadership retreat.  We’re SOOOO busy with other things right now.  The message is important.  I want to make sure that my Board is ready to truly listen…

  • Gail Perry

    Hi Lisa, I’m actually going to update this very soon and re-send as a new post, because it was SO popular last year. I sense that there are a lot of NFP boards who need this “shot in the arm.” Happy to be of help!