How to be an Effective Board Member

Tips to becoming an effective board member

It’s an honor to serve on the board of a nonprofit organization you are passionate about. That said, there can be a lot to learn for new board members in their onboarding. Often board member responsibilities come off as vague or general, and due to time constraints, the training provided can be minimal. Here are some ways you can be proactive and use your term to effectively serve the organization.

Be knowledgeable

Board members are provided with copies of organizational bylaws, financial statements, and strategic plans. Take your time to read through all the material and get to know the organization. Board meetings are valuable and you don’t want to waste time by asking questions that can easily be answered by resources you have at hand. Most importantly, know the give and get policy for your organization. This way you can track how much money you have to raise or donate before the end of the year.

Utilize your influence

Tap into your network of personal and professional relationships to expand the mission of the organization. For instance, you can organize a corporate volunteer day with your employer and the nonprofit. This brings in new people to learn about the mission of the nonprofit and could even convert volunteers to donors. You may also use your online presence and social media to promote the nonprofit, you never know who might be interested in your nonprofit’s cause.

Communicate

Keep open lines of communication with the executive director. They can provide you with a real-time status on current and upcoming projects. One of the most important communication skills is listening. Keep your ears open to what the nonprofit needs. This will also help you evaluate if the organization is on track with its strategic plans and current projects. Keep in mind, that the executive director is your only employee – do not try to manage other staff and volunteers. You should respect the chain of command and organizational process for productivity.

Avoid conflicts of interest

Be sure to read the conflict of interest policy for your organization. The will usually be provided in your handbook, if it’s not there, don’t hesitate to ask. Although it should go without saying, sometimes the lines for these rules get blurry and organizations may have different approaches to deal with such issues. For instance,  having your family business as a vendor at the next “Shop and Donate” event for the charity can be considered a conflict of interest. It’s better to be careful and avoid any such circumstances than putting yourself and reputation at risk.

Assess the organization’s technology

Board members can play a crucial role in helping nonprofits find the best technology partner for their strategy. Think about all of the different ways your organization raises money, and how that can be done more efficiently, all in one place online. Whether you have a single fundraising campaign or a series of multiple campaigns and events that require mobile accessibility, finding a solid technology solution can make all the difference in how much money you raise.

Fundraise, peer to peer

Since all board members are required to donate or raise a certain amount of funds, this is something you want to start thinking about early on in your term. This where you can go above and beyond and surpass your minimum give or get amount by using fundraising technology. For example, Rallybound allows fundraisers to import their email contacts, schedule posts to their social media accounts, and follow up with donors and prospects all in one dashboard. These features make it painless to make the ask and open up your entire network to be prospective donors. You can find more tips here. And don’t forget to thank your donors!

Serve

Remember that you are there to serve the nonprofit, the cause, and and the community. Be ready to help whenever you can. When you see issues arise, offer solutions and suggestions to make the meeting productive. This shows that you are proactive to problem-solving and will help reduce tension in the room when difficult issues are brought up and important decisions are being made.