Basics of Board Engagement: 10 Practical Tips

Exemplary board members are worth their weight in gold, especially for smaller organizations. When done right, board members can be your biggest cheerleaders and build some serious momentum.

The paradigm has shifted in recent years when it comes to how boards are engaged and the level to which they are involved. Among other things, they are willing to take risks and provide feedback on often sensitive topics that may spark “messy” discussions because there is a culture of trust built over time.

That said, here are some best practices for cultivating a dynamic board:

  1. Assign new board members a “board buddy” to help them assimilate and learn the ropes.
  2. Employ the use of name tags so that new board members can put a name with a face.
  3. Include a bio of all the other board members in a welcome packet.
  4. Host a social event to encourage board members to get to know each other in a casual environment.
  5. Structure board meeting agendas around important questions around the strategic plan and the past, present and future of the organization.
  6. Make the mission the focal point of each meeting. You might ask, “What have you done since the last board meeting to advance our mission?”
  7. Similarly, invite new members to become hands-on with your work. For example, if you run an arts non-profit, invite them to a performance or gallery open.
  8. Ask all board members to fill-out a self-assessment periodically to gauge engagement and identify any concerns.
  9. Form committees (like finance, marketing events, etc.) so that board members can match their specific talents with interests to further add value and focus their efforts.
  10. Show them you care. Whether it’s a volunteer appreciation dinner, hand-written card or some other token of appreciation, be intentional in your actions.

It should be mentioned that engagement is a dynamic process–it’s not something you can put on autopilot.  If you’re willing to put in the work, your organization will be rewarded with loyalty and passion.

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