Captioning–Press (Special Page)

"Our BoardAssist candidates have been amazing additions to our Board of Directors."

Executive Director, Good Shepherd Services.
Credit: Volunteers of America
helping individuals and families in need

Five Great Ways to Get Your New Board Members on Board

Struggling with how to engage the fabulous new board members that your nonprofit has recently recruited?  Here with all the answers in this week’s guest blog post is Randy Hawthorne from Nonprofit Hub.  Thanks for the tips, Randy!

Five Great Ways to Get Your New Board Members on Board

Getting new board members fired up about your organization is not something that automatically happens once they take the job. Some may come in with unbridled enthusiasm, sure. But you still have work to do if you want that initial exuberance to turn into prolonged engagement. It may take a little effort on your part to develop a board of high performers, but it will pay off. I promise.

Board members play a crucial role in helping an organization drive its mission forward. They’re often instrumental in the development of strategic plans, including fundraising plans. They can help form valuable connections. And many have the business expertise that’s useful in developing a sound plan for your nonprofit.

These reasons, along with several others, are why you don’t want to let any board member slip through the cracks and lose out on a great positive initial experience.

That said, here’s where your work begins—with these five ways to get your new board members off to an engaging start.

1.  Talk to them. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but too many nonprofit leaders get into the habit of addressing “the board” as opposed to interacting with board members as individuals who have unique interests, needs, desires and resources. You can break this habit by simply having informal conversations with your new members. Ask them how they originally got interested in your organization. What are their passions? What strengths do they bring to the table? How do they most want to help further your cause? Plan a mixer to welcome your new members or a casual dinner with no agenda other than getting to know each other.

2.  Help them hit the ground running with an orientation. Your best board members are likely the busiest ones who are used to rolling up their sleeves and getting things done—the go-getters of the world. They’re wonderful to have on your board, but if they don’t know the lay of the land at your organization, they might lose some of their get up and go. Work with your board’s leadership to give new members a proper orientation, including your organization’s history, who the key players are, what your committees do and what your greatest needs are. This will help lay the groundwork so your new members can understand where they’ll best fit and be able to serve.

3.  Dust off your vision, mission and values and talk about them. When new members come on board, they often bring with them some new ideas, perhaps a unique perspective and a fresh set of eyes. In other words, they’ve been viewing your organization from the outside, which gives you a great opportunity to talk about your vision, mission and values in a way that you don’t on a daily basis with the insiders in your organization. Adding new members to your board can rejuvenate important discussions about these things and get everyone pumped up about your cause—it’s like falling in love all over again. This is a win-win for both you and your new board members. Take advantage of the new blood flowing into your organization.

4. Put ‘em to work. It might seem counterintuitive, but the best way to get your new members engaged quickly is to get them working. Yes, they’re probably busy people with jobs and families, but they can handle it or they wouldn’t have signed up. Plus, if they don’t see their roles as critical to your nonprofit’s success, they’ll likely go where they think their investment will matter. The best board members are not joining just so they have something to put on their resume—they’re there to make a difference. Don’t wait to get them started.

5.  Be honest about your organization. Those of us in the nonprofit industry are all pretty positive people, right? If we didn’t focus on the good that can be accomplished, we’d probably all quit our jobs and go home. We’re optimists, for the most part. But that doesn’t mean that we should indoctrinate new board members with rose-colored glasses. It’s important to be honest and upfront about your nonprofit’s challenges and opportunities for growth—and not just the need for more money. Be straightforward about the areas where your organization needs help; this may be exactly what new board members need to hear in order to see how their talents and expertise can be useful. If you only talk about the good stuff, they may wonder how they can make a difference.

One last thing to mention: Communicate regularly. Keep in touch, either weekly or monthly, to keep the buzz alive and your new members engaged. Share stories. Talk about successes. Be honest about weaknesses. Introduce them to someone who was just helped by your organization. Consistent communication will help foster the engagement you’re looking for. But if you drop the ball and lose touch, members may start to lose interest or wonder why they’re there—and you may have to start all over, recruiting new members. And then you’re back to square one.

Randy Hawthorne is the Executive Director for Nonprofit Hub, and a Professional Certified Marketer.  Randy shares his passions of marketing and education with nonprofits to help them implement marketing and organizational leadership principles so they can grow their organizations.  Randy lends his marketing and organizational leadership expertise to a number of nonprofits in his community. Outside the office, Randy works with high school and college students and mentors young professionals to develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.