Lately I’ve been reading up on how to be a successful non-profit board member like Nonprofit Management 101 and How to Manage an Effective Nonprofit Organization. In doing my homework, I came across this list of resolutions for nonprofit board members that I just had to share with all of you. I also sent this to the boardmembers I serve with on the Earthshare Oregon and Solar Oregon boards. Please indulge (and pardon) me … I don’t mean to preach and I do mean well. I hope you’ll take these ten things to heart and apply them so our non-profit organizations can be as successful as possible.
It’s that time again—for turning over a new leaf, for reexamining our work and lives, for refocusing on what we really want, and for refreshing our commitment to good works.
Here are some great New Year’s resolutions for nonprofit board members. If you do these, you’ll set an example and be a “spark plug” for your organization — and you’ll also help make the world a better place through your favorite nonprofit.
1. Get more engaged. Your non-profit needs you to pay attention to your job as a nonprofit board member. We don’t need disengaged bosses. And yes, you are the boss – you’re the legal fiduciary guardian of your nonprofit. The staff all report to us and they need us to lead, to question, and to act.
2. Have a bias towards action. Do something. Non-profits need more than talk out of you. Don’t be one of those board members who thinks his or her job is to come to meetings and pontificate. Look for real actions you can take to help the cause. Ask the staff what they need you to do this month, this quarter, this new year. There’s too much at stake to just sit around and talk!
3. Think big. You can make a huge difference if you think BIG! We’re not going to change the world, save the environment, feed the hungry, or change the community, by thinking small. There is great power in a big, wildly exciting vision. A big vision helps you attract people and resources to your cause. Energy is everything when you are trying to create change.
4. Be optimistic, no matter what. Be a board member who sees the glass half full. Ban the handwringing and nay-saying. Negativity is self-defeating , wipes out passion and deadens momentum. Be the board member who has the point of view of abundance rather than scarcity. You’ll influence the rest.
5. Go back to your vision over and over and over. It will keep you excited, focused, passionate, and results-oriented. If you feel jaded or bored, ask yourself why you care about this cause and this organization. You’ll feel deep personal satisfaction when you see the results your organization is creating in people’s lives.
6. Be the catalyst; be the provocateur. Challenge the status quo. Remember Jack Welch’s quote: “If the change is happening on the outside faster than it is on the inside, the end is near.” Well, guess what – that goes for nonprofits too. Too many nonprofits plan for the future based firmly on the past. Be willing to ask, “Why are we doing this?”
7. Make your own personal gift to support your organization. And … encourage the other board members to give generously. If you don’t put your money where your mouth is, you have absolutely no credibility. Set an example. Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of board gifts in board meetings. Be willing to talk to other board
members about their annual contributions and commitments.
8. Support the staff. Ask them what they need from you or how you can support them. The staff is carrying the weight of the organizational responsibility on their shoulders. Pay them competitive salaries. Don’t let them overwork in the name of the cause. Return their phone calls and respond to their emails. Tell them what a great job they’re doing. An acknowledged, self-confident staff is a higher-performing staff.
9. Introduce ten of your friends to your cause. See if you can get them on your organization’s bandwagon. You’re not asking them for money, you’re trying to get them to join the cause. Have an open house and invite your friends to meet your Executive Director, or take a group on a tour out to the field to show them the good work your organization is doing.
10. Spread your organization’s viral news wherever you go. Ideas are like viruses – they are contagious, spreading from person to person. You want to create an epidemic of good buzz about your organization all around. All your friends, family and business associates need to know about your passionate involvement in your cause.
Don’t be a bystander.
Don’t waste your time in meaningless meetings
Make your service on the board meaningful. Make
Support your staff.
There’s way, way too much at stake.
I challenge us all to make it happen in 2012. Let’s put our ideas into ACTION!
Reprinted from Gail Perry, January 2010
© 2010, Gail Perry
Gail Perry is the author of Fired Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action and founder of Gail Perry Associates, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based consulting and training firm.