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VOL. 128 | NO. 1 | Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pearl and Mel Shaw

Is Your Board Bored?

By Mel and Pearl Shaw

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Here’s a question for our readers who are nonprofit executives and board members: is your board fully engaged? Does the structure of your board meetings encourage members to bring their talents and abilities to the table or does it stifle members’ creativity and create a “bored board?”

If you are a nonprofit executive, do you really know who is serving on your board? Do you know their skills, strengths, talents and relationships? Do you have a strategy for how to engage each board member in advancing the agreed upon goals of the organization? Have you met with each to share the current strategic plan and ask how each would like to be involved in bringing it to life?

Do you provide board members with information they need to serve as advocates and fundraisers? Have you met personally with members who tend to miss meetings, come unprepared or are otherwise disengaged? Have you reflected on what you know about their skills, personality and relationships and considered strategies for involving members in ways that are in line with their interests?

Do you typically create and circulate the board agenda? Do board members agree with the majority of your ideas? Do you have challenges getting a quorum at meetings? If you answered “yes” you may want to look at doing things differently.

Encourage your board chair to work collaboratively with you in crafting the agenda. Ask her to pose questions of the board; ask for their insights to challenges and opportunities the organization is grappling with. Find a way to creatively release the talents of your board. A “yes” board is not an asset: no one of us is so wonderful that all our ideas are perfect. Encourage dialog and diversity of opinion.

If you are serving on a board, take a moment to reflect on your involvement. Why are you on the board? Is the reason you joined the board the reason you continue to serve? Are you serving at the request of your employer? Are you filling a seat that is reserved for a representative from your business, agency, church or organization? Is your board service an obligation or a challenging joy? Do you attend the majority of board meeting? Do you participate or are you bored? Can you summon the courage to talk with the board chair and find a way to contribute to a positive change in how the board operates?

Here’s what we know – talented, respected and well-connected people are often asked to serve on nonprofit boards. But, the structure of board meetings can work against their active involvement. A board’s talent is lost when meetings are filled with reading of reports and discussions regarding the next time to meet. Consider working with a consent agenda and time allocated to strategic discussions regarding operations, growth, partnerships and delivery of services. No need to be bored.

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “The Fundraisers Guide to Soliciting Gifts” now available at Amazon.com.

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