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Nonprofit Strategies Manager Beth McCray shares her tips for recruiting and engaging nonprofit board members.

What makes a good board member of a nonprofit?

Board members can be your organization’s greatest advocates, but building an engaged, effective board of directors takes time and effort. If your board isn’t quite where you’d like them to be, our team can help.

In this four-minute video, part of our Nonprofit Toolkit, Nonprofit Strategies Manager Beth McCray shares her tips for building nonprofit board engagement and a board of directors. Below are five things to consider when engaging board members.

  • Engage board members in your mission
  • Enlist board members with and from diverse backgrounds
  • Turn your board orientation into an opportunity to build advocates
  • Prepare your board members to make fundraising asks on your behalf
  • Continue to maintain relationships with your former board members

Board Engagement

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Ways to Engage Board Members in Your Mission

The key to making your nonprofit board members your biggest advocates is by first getting them to believe in your mission. Whether it's being socially responsible or investing in community-led solutions, you want to ensure each board member's values in and outside of work align with your organization’s strategies and goals.

"When someone joins your board, they are making a public commitment to support, strengthen and provide their leadership and expertise so your organization’s mission can flourish and thrive,” says Beth.

Enlist Board Members with and from Diverse Backgrounds

It is important to have diverse viewpoints on your board to make the best decisions about how you move your organization’s mission forward.

To ensure that your organization makes inclusive and equitable decisions, assess your culture. Look at the ways you have or have not incorporated diversity throughout the organization. It is best to be intentional and transparent when you do this work. It is crucial that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) be embraced by your staff before you bring on diverse leadership. Knowing that an organization understands and embraces DEI will attract and retain your nonprofit board members for their entire tenure.

It is also key to tap into different networks. Ask your current board members who would make a great new board member; but keep in mind this could continue a similar culture. Here are some suggestions to help diversify your board:

  • Use LinkedIn to recruit new board members.
  • Connect with colleagues at conferences and find out how they created inclusive organizational cultures and diverse boards.
  • Contact Propel Nonprofits or Board Repair to connect with potential candidates.
  • Consider looking at all Minnesota has to offer. Our state has 15 Fortune 500 companies and nearly 200 post-secondary institutions. These companies bring in people from all over the world and can be a great place to connect with new people, talk about what you do, possibly garner new donors and build future board members.

Turn Board Orientation Into an Opportunity to Build Advocates

Before you can prepare your board to advocate on behalf of your organization, you must set clear expectations. Make sure incoming board members understand your mission, policies, programs and needs. In her video, Beth shares a few tips for cultivating board advocacy, including how to:

  • Help your board members understand the needs and goals of your organization. This is especially helpful as they work to connect your nonprofit with potential donors.
  • Encourage your board members to review the policies and procedures related to giving and endowments.
  • Prepare a dashboard to make important updates and information easy to read.
  • Hold your board members accountable — identify and communicate ways that your team will keep your board accountable to their own goals.

    When someone joins your board, they are making a public commitment to support, strengthen and provide their leadership and expertise so your organization’s mission can flourish and thrive.

    Beth McCray, Nonprofit Strategies Manager

    Prepare Your Board Members to Make Fundraising Asks on Your Behalf

    “I’m a firm believer that fundraising is a major responsibility of being on a board. It’s something that not everyone is great at, but there are little things that each member of your board can do to make sure your organization is successful,” Beth says.

    Among these board fundraising tips are:

    • Equip and inform your board members — make sure they know your fundraising goals, and any planned giving or endowment goals your team is working on.
    • Education is key. Our team hosts periodic seminars on planned giving and endowments that your board members can attend. If you are a nonprofit fundholder with the Foundation, our team can also join your next board meeting to provide helpful tips and training around fundraising.

    It’s a big ask getting your board to fundraise on your behalf, so it’s valuable to know their strengths. Lean into those on your board who are natural fundraisers and find opportunities to teach those who aren’t about the importance of investing in and growing your organization.

    If you are in need of any additional resources that offer board training, visit Propel Nonprofits and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

    Maintain Lasting Relationships with Former Board Members

    When board members step down or move on to other boards, make sure to keep in contact. Former board members can also be great advocates. They know your organization and understand its mission and policies. These individuals usually have an invested interest in your work and can be great connectors to other financial resources and donors.

    We know working with your nonprofit board members to further your organization’s mission and goals may seem overwhelming, but we can help. Find more tips like this in our Nonprofit Toolkit or contact Beth. We’d love to work with you on a personalized approach to help you achieve your nonprofit's fundraising goals.

    This post was originally published in 2021, updated Jan. 13, 2023 and again on February 12, 2024.

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