7 Tips to Engage Volunteer Board Members

Non-Profit organizations are always looking to recruit board members and once they are recruited, they are always looking to keep their board members engaged. Engaged board members can do wonders for your organization; they help fundraise, engage the public with your cause and are champions of your organization’s mission.

It can be said that the most successful non-profit organizations are backed by a strong, committed and engaged group of board members. Once you have recruited a board member, how do you keep them engaged? It all starts with the on-boarding process.

  1. Board Buddy – Assign any new members a “board buddy.” Their board buddy will help them while they are settling into their position on the board. A board buddy can answer any questions, explain the committees and deliver the orientation package. It also fosters a connection between new and old board members—which works much better if their board buddy is someone they don’t already know.
  2. Orientation – The new member should meet with their Board Buddy to receive a board orientation package that includes: a (brief) history of the organization, board member names, contact info and bios, the organization’s financials, minutes from two previous board meetings, and the organization’s policies/by-laws. After the AGM, have your board meet in an informal setting without the pressure of a formal board meeting. This will allow your new board members to get to know the more experienced members.
  3. On-Site Meet and Greet – At Propellus, the informal board meet and greet is held at the offices, where the board members can get a feel for the layout and atmosphere of the offices. The staff members are given the opportunity to attend the first half of the meeting so that the board members can get (re)acquainted with the staff and their roles within the organization. This way, board members can get a sense of the organizational culture AND the passion the staff have—hopefully that passion is infectious. Maintaining the relationship between staff and board members can help board members feel more in touch with the daily activities and can get a better idea of the change that their governance is having.
  4. Put Them to Work – Board members join an organization for a reason. They want to help the organization achieve its mission and they can’t do that if they aren’t put to work. If board members can’t see their impact or feel as though they aren’t essential to the organization, they may go to an organization at which they feel essential. Have them join a committee suited to them right away so they can dive right in.
  5. Be Accessible – Make sure that board members can get ahold of people or information whenever they need it. Board members should have up-to-date contact information for their fellow board members and be able to easily access relevant organizational information. Having a staff member designated as a liaison that the board can contact with any questions, and who has remote access to board information, makes it easy for board members to get information when they need it.
  6. Make Meetings Interesting – Board meetings can be a little formulaic and occasionally a little dry. Spice up your board meetings by doing something different every once in a while. Change locations, have a fitness break, or quick board trivia games; it doesn’t really matter what you do to spice it up, but having a little fun at your board meetings doesn’t hurt board engagement.
  7. Recognition – Because board members are such integral parts of non-profit organizations, sometimes people forget that they are volunteers. When you recognize your hard-working volunteers, don’t forget to recognize your behind-the-scenes volunteers, your board members. Whether it’s an award, a round of applause, or a mention in your newsletter, showing your board members that you recognize their outstanding contribution to your organization can go a long way to keeping them engaged.

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