As I meet with non-profit executive directors (EDs), many express frustration over some aspect of their relationship with their Board of Directors. It’s not surprising. That relationship is complicated: The Board is technically the ED’s boss BUT the Board ultimately wants the ED to lead! Huh?As if that’s not confusing enough, relationships between Boards and EDs are not only different from organization to organization, but they morph and change as an ED matures and grows. As the Board trusts the ED more and more, the Board gives more latitude and allows the ED to lead and make recommendations. If the Board begins to lose trust, they may take some of that latitude back.
Wherever you feel you or your ED is on that spectrum, it is always appropriate for the ED to “nudge” the Board in the direction it should go, particularly when it comes to donor relations. The whole fundraising/donor relations thing is the least comfortable for many Board members, but the ED can help establish expectations and facilitate some easy ways for Board members to get involved in this area.
The first step is to make sure your organization has a good job description for its Board members—you may need several for the different positions on the Board (Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer, Attorney, etc.). But they should ALL include an expectation that each Board member will be involved in initiating and maintaining relationships with donors and potential donors. Some even include a requirement that Board members are regular givers.
Once that expectation is set, the ED can help facilitate this role. Ask each Board member to host a lunch at a local restaurant and invite several friends or business associates. The ED makes a pressure-free presentation about the ministry, takes contact information from each guest, and asks if they would be open to a follow-up phone call. They key to making this happen is for the ED to follow up with each Board member and put a date on the calendar. Don’t just ask once. Be politely persistent!
Even easier than this are a few examples I found on Kivi’s Nonprofit Communication website—a great resource for nonprofits by the way! The article is called, Add These to Your Board Meeting Agenda. It outlines several ways to involve your Board during their meeting so they’ll begin thinking donor relations, such as: writing handwritten thank you cards, making thank you phone calls, and writing testimonials about why they love your organization. ALL done during the meeting.
How do you walk that line of taking direction from your Board while nudging them to do some things outside of their comfort zones? Share your tips!