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Mayes Wilson & Associates

Try These Tips To Engage Your Board

Sara Wilson, CPCC |

According to the Business Dictionary, engagement is the emotional connection a person feels toward an organization, which tends to influence his or her behaviors and level of effort in work-related activities. This definition fits multiple contexts, including staff, volunteers and supporters. Today I want to specifically address the engagement of board members.

In the context of your board members, do the words emotional connection and influence his/her behaviors resonate? After all, the goal of engagement is to get your board members to be involved. A rule of thumb when thinking about how to engage your board is to think about how engagement will benefit the other person. Where is the intersection of your goals/needs with the board member’s goals/needs? How might your goal be beneficial, satisfy a need, or tap into the passions of the board member? While you may be thinking about how to achieve your organization’s goals, successful engagement can’t be exclusively self-serving.

Here are three great examples of leaders engaging board members that we at MWA have observed:

  • Members of the Impact Committee of an environmental organization attend agency programs ranging from youth outdoor education to intern orientation to volunteer bird banding for bird population monitoring. The 30 minutes these board and non-board volunteers spend observing the programs is invaluable. Engagement Result: Committee members provide input into programs while increasing their understanding of programs, program integration and mission accomplishment; staff and committee members meet each other.
  • A youth mentoring organization holds a graduation ceremony every year.  Board members are purposefully seated at different tables, filling the rest of the table with kids and parents. One young person at each table is prepared to explain the benefits he/she has gotten from the program. Sound contrived?  It never comes off that way. Engagement Result: Board members come away singing the praises of the youth, the program and the agency and parents and kids get to know more about that board member.
  • The executive director of an arts agency engages with board directors at the beginning of each year to complete a Give, Get, Do form to record their goals. She combines all the goals and presents the board with their collective goal; goal progress is monitored and progress shared at every board meeting. The ED says the key to engaging the board through this process is meeting one-on-one with every board director to go over their Give, Get, Do goals and supporting them to identify and/or strategize how they will reach them. She follows up as an accountability partner and supports them throughout the year. Engagement Result: Each board member makes a personal commitment. Engagement is fostered through regular check-ins through the year.

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