Cambrian: Opinion

10 creative tips for nonprofit boards of directors

Why use a gavel? Why not try a wizard’s wand or conductor’s baton?
Why use a gavel? Why not try a wizard’s wand or conductor’s baton? Special to The Cambrian

Congratulations to all the volunteers recently elected to serve a new term on your favorite nonprofit’s board of directors.

You’ve obviously shown your service to this nonprofit, and your new position recognizes your hard work.

Now what?

Well, that depends on how your nonprofit’s board is structured. Hopefully, you’ve been given a good job description for this position. When my son-in-law was elected to a fairly large nonprofit board of directors, his job description included, “To raise a minimum of $10,000 in donations in the course of one year.”

Fortunately, he knew this in advance.

Communication is the key ingredient to a successful board of directors. I’ve served on various boards. Most were/are extremely professional and devoted to the nonprofit’s mission. A few, on the other hand, were a mish-mash mess of contrary personalities — something I learned in the aftermath of saying yes.

Regardless, “board members are the fiduciaries who steer the organization toward a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies, as well as by making sure the nonprofit has adequate resources to advance its mission,” the Council of Nonprofits says.

January represents new beginnings and the opportunity to make fresh starts. With that in mind and knowing that nonprofit boards often have January installations, I thought I’d share a few tips for board members from Carol Weisman, a nonprofit, volunteerism specialist with a great sense of humor. (From her bio: “Carol’s personal goal is to get her baby weight off before her son turns 40. She doesn't believe in rushing into some things like dieting, but she knew her husband for three weeks before they got engaged.”)

▪  Instead of the traditional gavel, present a new board chair with a conductors’ baton, or a wizard’s wand, or a light saber.

▪  Give new volunteers and board members a coffee cup imprinted with your web address and phone number.

▪  A suitable gift for those who have “seen the light” and joined your board, give them a flashlight for their purse or pocket.

▪  When a new member joins your board, announce it by sending a press release to your local newspaper or business journal. Also send a release to the new member’s alumni magazine, church or temple bulletin and the PR department where he or she works.

▪  Provide every board member with business cards as an orientation gift.

▪  Create a board survival kit for orientation. Include custom items such as Band-Aids, pens and M&Ms.

▪  Start your board meeting by sharing celebrations. Make note of what is going well in your members’ personal, professional or volunteer lives.

▪  Create a five-minute “mission moment” at every meeting sharing letters, stories, and information about those you serve.

▪  For the board member who is always putting out fires, present the member with a real firefighter’s hat. Present several different hats to the board member who wears many hats.

▪  Inaugurate an “ABCD” Award (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty), which can be given at any time.

With these 10 ideas, you can brighten meetings and empower those very, very special people — volunteers.

Charmaine Coimbra’s column appears the fourth Thursday of each month and is special to The Cambrian.

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