What Nonprofits REALLY Want from Board Members
|July 11, 2013||Posted by M. P. under Management, Philanthropy||
Colleen Dilenschneider posts another must-read at her blog Know Your Own Bone on the disconnect between what nonprofit executives need from board members and what board members expect to give during their tenure. A study of visitor-serving organizations found that CEOs needed board members to bring in revenue – first, foremost, always. Executive management from nonprofits of all sizes consistently ranked “Treasure” as the top priority of the board, ahead of “Time” and “Talent”. Board members reported their top priority was to share their “Talent” with the organization (with the exception of members serving on boards of 1+ million annual visitors). The quotes from the study included in the post make it abundantly clear that while skills and connections are appreciated, if the organization is lagging behind in filling its coffers, board members better be ready to lead by example.
Part of this gap in perception could be chalked up to poor recruitment, incomplete vetting or a fear of appearing mercenary by enforcing the giving requirements in a board agreement. Never underestimate fear – it’s easy to list frustrations anonymously in a survey, not so much to be the one sweeping board members out the door and risking blowback from philanthropic circles. If this gap exists in your organization you may want examine internal roles and procedures, for example,
- Is your nonprofit making expectations clear to board members during the recruitment process or is the financial obligation suggested hesitantly and never broached again?
- Do you ask long-standing board members who grasp the importance of their role in raising funds to mentor new members?
- How does leadership respond to board members who state they cannot get their connections to support your cause if the events aren’t more lavish or the promotional materials more appealing – the vague and unhelpful spend more to make … something… suggestion? In other words, do you allow members to blame the organization for non-fulfillment of their own responsibilities?
If after some adjustments and clarifications around expectations and responsibilities your board is still giving you more verbal than financial support, it’s time for some no frills, honest dialogue between the leadership and members. How would you begin?