Wednesday, January 4, 2012

3 Tips for Non-Profit Board Members and CEOs/Executive Directors

Are you a board member for a non-profit agency?
If so, thank you!  You are doing what many people don’t have time to accomplish.  Some of you have been serving for many years, some for a few weeks, but whatever your term of service, we can all use a few tips to improve.  Here are a few tips for board members:
  1. Attend board meetings, committee or task force meetings, and events.  Many foundations look at this specifically to see if board members are really involved – or not – and base their funding decisions upon it.  Plus, if you are not attending the agency events and supporting them, you should roll off to allow others to serve.
  2. Call your Executive Director every once in awhile.  Take him to lunch.  Ask how the agency is doing.  Ask how you can help her.  You don’t know what a gift it is for me to hear from one of our board members.  Just a phone call often energizes and inspires me to think more strategically or even to just smile and feel good about what I’m doing.  Being a CEO of a non-profit agency can be difficult – your one-on-one support is vital to a healthy relationship.
  3. Give.  Give advice, ideas, money (You knew I would say that, didn’t you?  If I didn’t every ED in town would be after me!), and friends.  That is what we need you to do most.  Support us and ask your friends to do the same.  Use your areas of expertise and circles of friends to make that agency better financially and strategically.
Are you an Executive Director/CEO of a non-profit agency?
I’m not letting you off the hook either.  Here are my tips for you:
  1. Thank your board members.  Tell them you appreciate them.  Listen to their advice.  If you say that you will do something or look into something – do it – and let them know that you did it.  These are the people who are your eyes and ears in the community.  You need them to talk about your cause at the next cocktail party they attend, at their office, at their place of worship, and at their daughter’s school carnival.
  2. While the board members are your collective boss, you cannot allow an individual board member to direct the business of the agency.  A personal agenda from a single board member is not your mandate.  Know your bylaws and use them.
  3. Give your board members the tools they need to feel comfortable talking about your agency.  I think sometimes non-profits forget that their board members don’t live and breathe the agency every day.  You need to give them memorable stories of the need you fill.  One of the best things to do is to ask them why they care about your agency.  They may forget the exact number of kids you serve, but they will always remember why they care.
These are short lists, but I hope that they are helpful.  I’d love to hear what you think.

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