Tips for Energizing Your Board Members

The last thing the board members want to do when they join your board is raise money; however, that is the first and most important thing you want your board members to do. It is important when recruiting the board members to be crystal clear about your expectations and to have your board president (hopefully) set the bar high enough so the board members will have expectations to both contribute time, money, and to become fundraisers for the organization.

Here are some of the TIPS I have used over the years to motivate the board:

1. Conduct Yearly Retreats – It is important that once per year the board members get away from the monthly routine of meetings and spend time together a different locale. This is important for three reasons:

  • To get to know one another and establish personal relationships with each other. Remember, many people join nonprofits to develop that sense of community.
  • To help plan the year’s activities and go over the programmatic and financial issues.
  • To let everyone know what kind of impact the organization is having.

2. Set High Expectations – If we don’t expect much of ourselves and others, we won’t get much. When recruiting board members be sure to set the expectations high enough that people have to stretch a bit. Make sure the board members are held accountable for each decision or action. Report on their assignments at the START of each board meeting. Set a specific fundraising goal for each board member (such as each member will contribute $500 AND be responsible for raising $500 for the organization).

3. Survey Board Members Yearly – Every year a core group of board members (in teams of two) should interview each board member at their home, work, or over a meal to determine answers to questions such as: do you like being on our board? what are the strengthens and weaknesses of our organization? how much time do you have to give us this coming year? what do you want to learn from your involvement in our organization?

4. Remember the Personal Touch – When new people come “on board” remember to gather unique information such as their birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. Send them cards and recognize them at the board meeting. If one of your board members has been honored or has her/his name in a newspaper article, email this article to the rest of the board. It is the personal touch and making the board members feel important and valuable to the organization that is key. And always THANK them PUBLICLY for everything they do for the organization

5. Ask Board Members to Give You Names of Their Friends and Associates – Each one of the board members should give you at least 10 names with contact information of their friends, family and business associates. Put these contacts on your mailing list and at least two times per year (preferably three times) when doing a direct mail appeal, have the board members write personal notes to these people and follow up with a phone call.

6. Make the Board Meetings Entertaining, Productive, and Educational – The board meetings are ‘SHOW-TIME’ for the staff and board. It is very important that the board members feel the organization in moving ahead and making progress and impact in the community. Some tips on the board meeting: start and end on time; have a 15 minute educational session conducted by the board members on a rotating basis (ask each board member to prepare a 15 minute presentation on something they are passionate about); make sure the CEO/executive director talks less than 25 percent of the meeting. The executive director should ORGANIZE AND MANAGE the board – NOT lead the board

7. Position the Organization with Key People in the Community – Make sure that the organization is ‘positioned’ right with key constituency groups. These could include the business community, faith-based people, neighborhood organizations, elected officials, wealthy individuals, etc. The board members should go with the executive director when meeting with funders, city council persons, key businesses or religious leaders.


These tips came from one of the following sources:

RichTips Non-Profit Management Newsletter

Training Resources for the Environmental Community (TREC)

and, The Lands Council