Directors and trustees are vital to best governance practices at your nonprofit. Board members are also your best source of major donations and legacy gifts, which also serve as drivers in special fundraising initiatives such as capital campaigns. The focused work of the board in strategic planning and their participation in activities such as technology planning, development and legal services, keeps your nonprofit thriving and relevant. Because board members, unlike your other volunteers, have accepted fiduciary oversight responsibilities and the risks and rewards of those duties. Each member requires a variety of current, sometimes confidential information — from budgets to mission-impact performance data, on an easy to access, securely private, curated virtual platform.
Highly-engaged board members and trustees are your best peer-to-peer fundraisers. They know your charity and they most likely have a wide network of high net-worth friends, businesses and co-workers. Failure to keep board members and trustees informed and committed means you lose one of your best fundraising resources for major donations.
Nonprofit directors and trustees are so important! While general volunteers contribute the equivalent of $25.00 per hour in value to a nonprofit, board volunteer time can represent many times that amount. Board members come from a variety of backgrounds and professions, bringing years of experience and industry-specific knowledge to the nonprofits they serve. A lawyer, CPA, marketing expert or industry leader’s time are valued at hundreds of dollars per hour, making your organization the fortunate recipient of all this expertise, free of charge. This tremendous value means a board member’s deep engagement with the mission, goals and protection of your nonprofit is an absolute requirement.
Making appropriate and important information accessible to directors and trustees is vital to board member retention. It’s critical to get this right, and most in the nonprofit world are still clearly struggling to engage both the hearts and the minds of our directors and trustees. Nonprofit management must generally chase board members with emails and attachments in what are largely unsuccessful attempts to provide key reports, updates and need-to-know documents. Board members only open 39 percent of emails received from their nonprofit, and less than 5 percent of attachments, meaning nonprofits are failing to keep board members engaged. Let’s stop expecting our board members to work in the dark.
A great executive director provides complete organizational transparency to all board members. Special attention is important in areas such as finance, legal compliance, approvals of top management hires and terminations. The best nonprofits clearly set achievable standards for directors and trustees performance success and help to meet those standards by providing consistent, always accessible documentation, education and support.
It’s also important to inspire and excite our directors and trustee. Directors and trustees give of themselves because they care about your mission; they stay because they feel an integral part of your positive impact. The director or trustee who leads board recruitment is as important to your work as those who provide pro bono legal or HR compliance services. They all are giving when they have no obligation to give. And nonprofits are grateful to be the recipients of their time and high-level skills. With that exchange comes an absolute nonprofit leadership responsibility to offer a fulfilling, predictable, well-informed and meaningful governance experience.
Certainly, annual reports, budgets, financial reports, HR complaints are critical to board member decision-making for your nonprofit. But thank-yous, success stories and thoughtfully fostered communication sharing can make all the extra bit of difference in engaging the head and heart of all directors and trustee. Build robust engagement with directors and trustees by investing time and resources in training, communication and, and most of all, connection increases board efficiency and decreases board exodus.
You can do all of this, and more, in your new directors and trustees group in your Engagement Community.
What content should you include in your Board of Directors or Board of Trustee group?
1. Provide all directors and trustees basic forms, policies, procedures and required paperwork in one place. Include:
- Board approved volunteers and/or employee policies and procedures.
- Governance policies and procedures. Ask for a check-off when your director or trustee reviews policies and send them a notice when there is an update. NEVER assume because you sent a new Handbook of Policies and Procedures that it was opened and read. Likely, it was not.
- Board meeting minutes.
- Budgets, financial statements and grants needing board review and approval.
- HR decisions/approvals and, very importantly, reports on employee/volunteer HR complaints or problems.
- Legal agreements requiring either board approval or knowledge
- Links to time, attendance and scheduling sheets. It’s important to track Director/Trustee time volunteered. These hours can often comprise an off-set matching grant requirements and for Directors and Trustees recognition awards
- Criminal background checks in the form of downloadable forms.
- A place to upload and easily update/add to required bios, resumes.
- Requests for leave; notice of board membership terminations.
- Applications for available employment positions as Directors and Trustees are often your next great hire.
- Expense Reimbursement forms.
2. Feedback centers/message boards. Provide a public, semi-public or private forum for your Director and Trustee “shout outs” and other forms of instant Directors and Trustees recognition – focusing on the big and small thank-you’s that make for a highly motivated governance team.
3. Private channels to directly contact management with concerns, questions or complaints. FYI: The lack of this is among directors and trustees’ number one complaints and the reason that so many directors and trustees leave without notice.
4. Ongoing educational content. Written and video targeted at what governing bodies need to know.
5. Onboarding or other training videos and materials. This can cut costs and time in onboarding new board members, so that you can use the time you do have to make that all-important, personal, face-to-face connection with your new directors and trustees. Also, missed training sessions and other how-to guides or materials are always accessible to watch, read or review one more time. This is important because Directors and Trustees are already giving you their time. Home access to video and other training can be a real convenience to busy Directors and Trustees.
6. Shared documents. Useful for collaborative planning, threaded discussions and directors and trustees projects, such as galas and other coordinated events
7. Short Surveys, Q&As and flash polls are particularly revealing with directors and trustees. Because directors and trustee don’t typically spend their days with you or your team, you may miss opportunities for casual conversations about directors and trustees impressions or ideas.
8. Individual, departmental or organization-wide announcements
9. Event scheduling.
10. Impact reports/annual reports.
11. Photos and videos from staff events, birth announcements, weddings, special moments.
1d. Inspiring stories of mission success.
13. Departures and new directors and trustee Introductions
14. Introductions to staff, board members, directors and trustees and other key constituents. Keep in mind that happy directors and trustees also are likely to become donors.
15. Special requests for directors and trustees skills, time or contributions (in kind or $$s)
16. Ongoing document management. Your Engagement Community provides unlimited and keyword-searchable access to all documents stored and archived, and based upon users’ level of access.
17. Social sharing made simple. Your Engagement Community comes social media-ready for easy sharing of good news, great photos and other information you want to openly share with constituents.