Morale is an issue for everyone these days.
And it’s often an issue with board members as well who liable to lose heart with all too much bad news.
I have developed a sure-fire exercise that wakes everybody up, gets them talking, smiling and enjoying themselves.
It also gives them their own chance to speak, and reconnects them with the reason they are taking the time out of their busy lives to serve on the board.
Tall order you might say! But try this – and I’ll bet you get the same results!
You won’t believe how easy it is. But it does require some discipline on your part and willingness to try something new on your board’s part.
I begin every single one of my “Easy Fundraising for Board Members” retreats with this exercise – and it never fails.
Here’s a simple question to ask them:
“Why do you care about our organization?”
It’s a pretty unusual question because board members don’t often get a chance to talk about why they care.
They are too busy doing business and being efficient.
In the interest of using their time wisely, we too often just don’t take the time to go deeper and touch their hearts or hear their story.
We’re responsible if our board members are disengaged or bored.
That’s because we are the ones who make the agendas and decide how they are going to use their time with us.
But you won’t believe what happens when you just ask this question!
This is the conversation that can fan the flames of a board member’s energy and passion.
I am always amazed and pleased with what it evokes in people. It helps them get back in touch with that deep caring they have in their hearts for your cause.
This is the core reason why they are with you, and why they are willing to share their precious spare time on your cause instead of something else.
Here’s how I set up this most important conversation so that no one is self conscious or feels put on the spot.
It’s a casual “mingle exercise.”
It’s an exercise in which board members mingle around the room and share their own perspective with four or five different people.
Here’s how to set this exercise up.
1. Ask your board members what they would say to someone who asked them why they cared enough to serve on this board. If they ran into someone at work or socially, what would they say?
(You might also ask them “what legacy do you want to leave from serving on the board?” or perhaps “what speaks to you personally about the good work we do in the world?”)
2. Give them a few moments to write down some notes to themselves – what would they really say if given the chance?
3. Then tell them in just a minute we will ask everyone in the room to share these thoughts with FOUR other board members.
4. Explain the exercise: “Find a partner, introduce yourself to them in case they may not know you well, and then share your story. Each person should take just about 30 seconds. When you finish with your partner, then go find another partner and chat with them.”
5. Then launch them: “Everybody up!” Have them stand up, go around the room, and share their perspective briefly with four or five other board members, one after the other.
Then debrief when everyone is finished.
Ask everybody first what their experience was when they were doing this. What were they saying? How were they being? Was it easy? Was it even fun?
What did you learn from other board members?
When they do the mingle exercise, they will find themselves saying over and over why they really care about the organization and what is deeply meaningful to them about your mission.
It evokes exactly what they should be saying to their friends and acquaintances: something personal and from the heart.
And it reinforces it because they repeat it again and again.
This mingle exercise has a very special added benefit:
It is also a “re-kindling” conversation.
As your board member talks repeatedly about what sparks his enthusiasm or interest in your organization’s work, he is re-igniting his own passion as he speaks.
He is reminding himself about the difference you make; and why it is personally important to him.
Remember, most board members don’t know what to say about your organization! This exercise gives them low-key, but most valuable, practice talking about your cause, in a natural and spontaneous way.
They also learn from other board members; they get great energy from the other folks in the room; and they enjoy themselves.
When you do this exercise, you’ll be surprised by the excitement and fun that it generates. You’ll see people laughing and smiling. Board members love to talk to each other and they rarely get the chance.
It’s a great energy boost and refreshing shift away from boring board meetings – AND it’s the best morale booster I’ve ever seen.
When they are re-inspired by their own passion for the cause, board members are now ready to go to work.
Because they get back in touch with the deeper issue of why they care, then they are much more ready to tackle the work at hand with vigor – and commitment.
I’ll bet that if you do this before a meeting, you’ll find that it’s one of the best meetings you’ve ever had with this group.
At least that’s what some of my fundraising friends say who have put this conversation in front of their board.
Try it and post a comment here to let me know how it worked!