Retaining Excellent Nonprofit Board Members by Keeping Them Meaningfully Involved – Part I

Retaining Excellent Nonprofit Board Members by Keeping Them Meaningfully Involved – Part I

By: Eugene Fram

In the 20th century, it was not unusual for nonprofit boards to grapple with operational questions related to buying new equipment, firing a custodian, hiring a new program director, choosing new furniture for the reception area, revising budget forms, revamping the accounting department, etc.

In order to retain desirable directors in the 21st century, the board only needs to be generally aware of these types of operational decisions, not make them, and then needs to focus its meeting times on questions such as:
• What kind of organization is going to be need in three to five years?
• What are the threats and opportunities to its mission, vision and values?
• Should it provide all the services it now provides?
• Should it provide any new services?
• What is the future financial configuration?
• What are the impacts of rising costs?
• Is there a need for more emphasis on fundraising?
• How would staff cutback s affect services?

When board members tackle these kinds of questions, they truly invest themselves in the organization and understand they are meaningfully involved.

People volunteer as nonprofit board members for all sorts of reasons. Some have benefited, first hand, from services provided by the nonprofit. Some have skills they want to utilize. For example, an engineer I know has ably applied his skills to the board of a Ronald McDonald House. Others volunteer because they want to expand their personal or professional contacts.
Most care deeply about what the organization is seeking to achieve. It’s the job of the board chair and the CEO to understand why a person has volunteered and to match the person’s skills and interests to the needs of the nonprofit.

Part II provides examples how to tailor board members skills and interests to board activities and to keep directors meaningfully involved.

Source: Policy vs. Paper Clips, 2011,Third Edition.


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