What do nonprofit executive directors really want from their board members? We know nonprofit leaders rely on their boards for financial support, but they also need so much more from them in non-financial ways. What ways to help mean the most to nonprofit leaders? Who better to ask than this week’s guest blogger, Ellen Simon, the former head of Union Settlement Association, one of Harlem’s largest nonprofits for more th an 100 years. Thanks for the great advice, Ellen!
Seven Ways a Board Member Can Support His or Her Executive Director and Organization
You already know that your organization expects you to open your rolodex and your wallets but what else can you do to help?
Volunteer your time
If you have free time, you can work with clients from reading to children to helping complete tax forms. If there are no volunteer opportunities on weekends, offer to help organize a clean up, garden tending, or other activity on a weekend.
Serve on a Board Committee
Most boards have a finance committee and a fundraising committee. Most need to have a marketing or social media committee. If they don’t and that is your strength, offer to form one.
Talk to the Executive Director
What’s on his or her wish list? If she had the time and/or resources, what would she want to accomplish? Can you help fill the gaps or open doors to resources that can help?
Know your areas of expertise
Do you have HR, technology, or legal knowledge? Many nonprofits have limited staff in these areas, if any. The ED may have no staff member to help him negotiate contracts or renegotiate health care offerings. He may never have had a technology security assessment or know what software they should be using. Look at what you know and can do and offer up your expertise.
Attend Board meetings
Many grant-funding agencies look at board attendance when determining whom to award money to when agencies are similar in other ways. If you cannot come in person, ask about calling in. Be present and involved.
Make Connections with other Board members
A board whose members know one another functions better. If you get to know other members, you will help yourself and others. These connections will help you build a community. Offer to host a holiday party with a purpose. Board members have to bring at least one toy to be given to agency participants. Invite other members to join you in soliciting toys from businesses or friends or involve them in planning the event. The event pays off in two ways, better connections between board members and toys for needy children. When people feel connected, they give their best to the organization. You discover another board member is a runner. Talk to him or her about forming a team to run in a local 10K, half marathon, or marathon. The organization benefits through the donations, visibility, and the sense of attachment among the team members.
Offer to be a Board Buddy to new Board members
Start newbies off right. Introduce them, sit near them at meetings, help them feel welcome and a part of the group. If you had a hard time at first, do your best to change the culture of the board to welcome new members and get them involved.
The preceding is a guest post by Dr. Ellen P. Simon. Ellen has worked as a nonprofit consultant for more than five years, with a diverse set of clients, advising on areas such as community involvement, grant writing, public health research, and management. Prior to that she ran one of the largest nonprofits in Harlem, providing programs in child care, youth services, senior services, mental health and home care. BoardAssist is proud to have Dr. Simon on our board of directors.