How to Encourage Commitment from Nonprofit Board Members
Getting members of a board for a nonprofit to pull their weight sometimes seems like a problem that you can’t solve. Not every board member will contribute equally to the work involved in governing a nonprofit organization. If everyone on your board shows up at every meeting, reads all the materials, studies the financial statements, and contributes to fundraising activities, consider yourself fortunate.
Here are some techniques that encourage full board member participation:
Board contracts: Some nonprofits ask new board members to sign an agreement that outlines expectations for board service. The contract may include a commitment to contribute financially to the organization, attend all board meetings, and serve on one or more committees.
Although board contracts aren’t legally binding, they provide a clear understanding of responsibilities for each board member. With a board contract, no one can say he didn’t understand what he was getting into when he joined the board.
Bylaws: Organizational bylaws can state the requirements for board participation. For example, a board member may face dismissal from the board if he misses three consecutive board meetings.
Job descriptions: Just like employees, board members often do better if they know exactly what they’re supposed to do. Creating job descriptions for officers, committee chairpersons, and individual board members may clarify responsibilities and make them easier to fulfill. If a member isn’t pulling his weight, a committee chair should speak with him and remind him of his responsibilities.
Reliance on board members: Solicit opinions from members between board meetings. Use their expertise and recognize their contributions.
Self-evaluation: Sometimes encouraging a board to look at itself motivates board members or encourages those who aren’t pulling their weight to resign.
Board members fail to contribute equally to the work of the board due to time constraints, business travel, and just plain laziness. Give each member some slack. But if a board member’s lack of participation impacts the full board, the decision is up to the board president (often in partnership with the executive director) to ask the member to reconsider his commitment to the organization.
To a great degree, each board member’s work reflects his commitment to the organization’s mission. Board members who truly believe in what you’re doing do everything they can to help you succeed.