From Bored to Blazing: 7 Steps to Get Your Board Reconnected, Re-engaged and Enthusiastic

Have your board members lost their enthusiasm and zip?

Have they possibly lost their energy to create change and make a difference?

group of confident professional employees in a serious meeting from above

Guess what!

You can certainly change this situation, and you’ll make your board members happier as a result.

Here’s my recipe for creating change, renewing enthusiasm, and firing up these lovely people who care so much about your cause.

First: Assume Some Responsibility.

Whether you are a staff member, manager, executive — or a board leader — it really all starts with you.

Be willing to lead. Find a way to promote these ideas and changes.

And watch things start to shift!

Tip: Your overall goal is to give your board members a terrific experience.

You can create change!

So many board members and nonprofit leaders really do want to change their community. But they also want have a great experience doing it.

That’s why I developed my webinar on Sept 23 “From Bored to Blazing: 7 Steps to Fire Up Your Board — to help nonprofits create stronger boards that are full of enthusiasm and energy.

I’ll be discussing all of these ideas in depth and adding examples from real boards who created real engagement and renewed enthusiasm.  Join us on Wednesday.

Here are my 7 Steps to Fire Up Your Board:

1. Reawaken Their Passion by Asking Them To Share Their Personal Stories.

Board members are serving on your board for a reason. It’s probably a deep personal — even emotional — connection with your mission.

Do you ever talk about it? Probably not. I have found that the quickest way to fan the flames of board members’ passion for the cause is asking them why they care.

It’s such a simple question and it can touch the heart, open the floodgates of energy and commitment, and bring people to tears.

Tip: Try this mingle exercise with your board — or simply go around the table and ask people to share their stories.

2. Help Them Understand Where the Money is Going.

Data is a lovely thing. And real numbers can really motivate board members. (!)

Set up these discussion questions:

  • Why does it cost so much?
  • Why do we need to spend money on this or that?
  • How much does it cost to help one kid (clean one stream, present one performance, etc.).

And the most important question your board members need to know is this:

What do we need the MOST but don’t have money for?

Tip: Once you help them understand the urgent work and why it needs to happen — then they might be dashing out the door to ask everyone they know to help. (I’ve seen it happen.)

3. Connect Them to Your Real Work.

Alas, so many board meetings are stuck in dry business discussions — far away from the urgent, tough work in the field, on the stage, in the lab, in the classroom.

No wonder passionate, well-meaning board members feel estranged from the real mission of your nonprofit.

Take them out of the office and get them in the field. Give them a direct, personal experience of the amazing change you are creating in the world.

Bring mission moments into your meetings.

You’ll see a sea change in their attitude, commitment, enthusiasm and engagement levels.

Tip: Try cancelling your next board meeting and take them on a field trip instead.

4. Liven Up Your Meetings.

Ah, the boring board meeting. Fate worse than death?

Listening passively to presentation after presentation. Death by Powerpoint sometimes.

There’s no interesting discussion. Or if there is a compelling discussion, it’s often on a topic that’s trivial.

Yes, we’ve all been there!

Reorganize your agenda to put the boring stuff last rather than first. Make committee reports only two minutes each. Create a consent agenda. Give your board chair training in meeting facilitation.

Tip: Check out my post: “12 Ways to Liven Up Your Board Meeting.” 

5. Give Board Members What They Want.

Want to give them a “terrific experience?” If you do, you’ll be rewarded with enthusiasm, energy and lots more engagement.

What do board members really want? June Bradham’s research in her book “The Truth About What Nonprofit Boards Really Want” blew my mind:

They want to:

  • Work with people who are as passionate and excited about the organization as they are.
  • Feel that their time is used wisely.
  • Get their hands dirty with real work.
  • Meet the other board members.

Tip: Give your board members some meaningful work that will actually help your organization.

6. Give Them Social Time.

If one of the top things board members want is to meet the other board members, then you need to arrange time for that to happen.

That’s why coffees and lunches before and after meetings are so important.

Social time helps foster closer personal relationships among your board members.

And that creates a sense of trust among the people who run your nonprofit. I can’t think of anything more important!

Tip: Build optional social time into your regular meeting agenda.  

7. Focus Them on Action Items.

What do your board members need to “do” in order to be good board members?

Simply attend meetings and offer their judgment and opinions?

Not necessarily!

I like to see board members equipped with actions they are supposed to take.

Whether it is calling five donors to say thank you, or introducing five new people to your organization, or selling five tickets, or opening the door to an important connection, or advocating for your nonprofit at a community forum, or researching roofers so you can get a new roof donated — there’s lots they can do.

Tip: Send board members out the door with a clear idea of what they need to do between now and the next board meeting.

BOTTOM LINE

There’s lots you can do to rev up the energy and enthusiasm of your board.

Try these ideas and see what erupts!

What are YOU doing to fire up your own board?