#GivingTuesday, one of the biggest fundraising days of the year, is right around the corner. As you’re gearing up for the busy year-end season and maybe even organizing some giving days of your own, you might be wondering how you can do more to engage your board members in your organization’s upcoming activities and events.
Juggling your board’s involvement with donor and volunteer engagement is definitely a challenge, especially if your board requires an extra push every now and then. But what better time to encourage your board members to roll up their sleeves and get involved than your next giving day?
While your board members are busy individuals outside the boardroom, they agreed to help your organization for a reason. They are passionate about your cause and want to advance social good — sometimes they just need to be reminded why they joined in the first place.
If you’re looking to engage your board members more meaningfully with your upcoming fundraising initiatives, we have some strategies that could help. When encouraging your board members to get more involved, you should:
- Frequently communicate with your board members.
- Include board members in the planning process.
- Make volunteering or fundraising mandatory.
- Create an encouraging work environment.
- Assign different tasks to your board members.
- Ask for feedback.
Your board is an integral, outward-facing part of your organization, so the more involved they can be during your major fundraising days of the year, the better. Plus, putting in more effort to engage your board members now paves the way for greater involvement in the future.
1. Frequently communicate with your board members.
Frequent and clear communication with your board members is essential. Not only does open communication make things easier on the administrative end, but it can also build trust and rapport between your board members, which is especially important if they have never worked together before.
Depending on how often you meet with your board members, it might be a good idea to set up more frequent meetings or enable digital communication so that you can stay in touch. Especially as you transition from a giving day to your regular fundraising schedule, having some extra touch points can make sure that everyone is on the same page.
Additionally, sending periodic (but not incessant) updates to your board members about events and fundraising goals also invites them to contribute their ideas.
To avoid complaints from board members about too frequent contact, you could ask them for their preferred method of communication. That way, you can ensure that your board members actually read your updates and that you’re being professional with your communication.
2. Include board members in the planning process.
Your board members would not have joined your organization if they had no interest in its inner workings. They care about your organization, so don’t be afraid to ask them to get more involved. Your board members might be eager to help, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask!
Around giving days, your organization might plan special events or specific fundraising campaigns, which might require some more hands on deck. With the excitement surrounding big donation days, your board members will likely want to be more involved anyway, so voicing your requests will help encourage them further.
During your board meetings, set aside some time to gather ideas from your members for upcoming campaigns. Be sure to record all of these ideas in your board meeting minutes so that they are easily accessible later on. Then, when you send out a follow-up after the meeting, include specific tasks or takeaways from the meeting so that everyone has an action step to complete before the next meeting.
Most board members also have extensive networks that they could use during major fundraising days. For example, maybe a board member works for a company with a generous matching gift program. According to 360MatchPro’s matching gift statistics page, between $2-$3 billion is donated through matching gift programs each year. Perhaps this board member could tell their co-workers about your organization and their company’s matching gift program to raise more money.
However you get them in on the action, including your board members in the planning process for upcoming events or fundraising initiatives can help them feel as though they are contributing more to your organization, which could support further involvement.
3. Make volunteering or fundraising mandatory.
Your board members know that their position is a significant responsibility, so asking them to participate in volunteer opportunities or fundraising initiatives is not a big stretch. In fact, your board members might feel like they are more essential to your organization’s daily success if they are able to do some hands-on work.
Board member participation in your volunteer program can also give them insights into how to improve your engagement levels with volunteers. After your board members have been volunteering for a while, have them brainstorm some potential improvements to the program to bring up at the next meeting or have them participate in your volunteer feedback process.
However, some of your board members might prefer bigger picture involvement, so fundraising may be a better avenue to engagement for them. If your board members are more interested in fundraising, encourage them to lead a peer-to-peer campaign with people in their network or meet with potential major donors.
When you set an expectation of participating in fundraising or volunteering, consider using a minimum hour or event requirement to guide board members. Doing so will provide your busy board members with some flexibility while still getting them involved.
4. Create an encouraging work environment.
As you’re counting down to this year’s giving days, you want to do everything you can to build an encouraging work environment among your board members. When your board members feel supported, they are more likely to get involved and will feel more comfortable sharing their ideas. Here are some ways that you can create an encouraging environment in the boardroom:
- Design a thorough and welcoming onboarding process: When you bring on new members, be sure to give them all of the information they need and encourage them to ask questions. Doing so will show board members that you’re happy they’ve joined. This Boardable guide to onboarding new board members can help you get started with designing a thorough process that gets everyone up to speed on expectations.
- Host activities outside of work: Creating opportunities for your board members to bond outside of the workplace can help them to build more meaningful relationships with one another. Line up regular social activities, whether it’s grabbing dinner after a meeting or going out for a bowling night.
- Have an anonymous submissions box: Some of your board members, especially new ones, might not feel comfortable elevating issues they might have noticed. For example, maybe a new member notices an improvement that could be made to your website to make it easier for users to donate, but might not feel comfortable sharing during a meeting. Providing an anonymous submissions box ensures that all board members have the opportunity to be heard.
Remember that creating a supportive working environment doesn’t happen overnight, and ideally, it’s something that you’ll do intentionally from the beginning. Regardless of when you start, though, your board members will appreciate your efforts in improving their experience.
5. Assign different tasks to your board members.
Your board members come from a variety of backgrounds and therefore bring an array of skills to the table. To get the most out of your board, encourage each member to apply their unique skill sets to the job.
Your board members will feel more confident when participating in your giving day if they are completing tasks that fall within their expertise. Depending on your board members’ experiences, they could:
- Meet with major donors
- Manage volunteers
- Host social media takeovers
- Optimize your website
- Design marketing materials
It’s also a good idea to explicitly assign specific tasks for your giving day. This way, there is no confusion over who should be doing what. Be sure to include these assignments in your board’s minutes so that everyone can fulfill their responsibilities without trouble.
6. Ask for feedback.
The best way to know how to engage your board members is to directly ask them how they want to get more involved in your next giving day. Your board members will appreciate that you want to know what they think about their experience and you’ll get a better idea of your board member’s expectations. Dedicate part of a board meeting to discuss involvement opportunities for your next giving day, or allow them to submit their feedback to a suggestion box.
Remember that your perspective as a mission-driven professional is different from theirs, so being able to share both viewpoints can help everyone reach a better understanding. And if you find that your feedback session is productive, you can set up regular meetings to review how your board and your organization can work together more effectively.
When you’re organizing a feedback session, be sure to give yourself enough time to implement the changes. If you’re trying to increase your board’s engagement before your organization’s next giving day, then you should work this into a meeting well in advance.
Getting your board more involved with your organization might seem challenging initially, but with a little extra time and effort, you can remind your board of their passion for your cause. By creating open lines of communication, including your board members in multiple aspects of running your organization, and encouraging each member to bring their unique skills to the table, you will have a highly engaged board in no time.
Jeb is the founder and CEO of Boardable, a board management software provider for mission-driven boards. He is also the founder of two nonprofits, The Speak Easy and Musical Family Tree, as well as a board member of United Way of Central Indiana and ProAct. Jeb is based in Indianapolis, Indiana
Boardable is an online board management portal that centralizes communication, document storage, meeting planning, and everything else that goes into running a board of directors.