5 ways to keep your board members happy

The Brief
Hooking board members is hard enough. It’s a particular skill set that can land someone who combines an open checkbook with the relevant experience you need to sustain your organization. But filling seats on your board is only half the battle. Keeping them is its own constant struggle, as passion for the mission holds their interest for only so long. Here are five things you can do to make sure board members will stay at the table once you’ve given them a seat there.

1. Establish expectations. Obviously, you need to make sure new members understand the commitment you need them to make beyond the monthly meeting. Then ask them to tell you how they expect to contribute—not in dollars, but expertise. Expectations run both ways, though, so find out what they want to get out of their experience, too.

2. Engage their experience. Again, membership means more than numbers on a check. You should be filling your board with thought leaders who can leverage their own knowledge to help you run your show. Connect board members with staff for skill-building sessions. The more they’re utilized, the more they will feel fulfilled and the more likely they will be to stay on.

3. Give them agency. Allow board members’ influence in decision-making, and they’ll feel more invested in the organization. What’s more, they’ll likely place a higher value on their position within it. And everyone likes to feel important.

4. Be clear about goals. Specificity works. Gail Perry at Guidestar recommends, for example, drawing a line from the number of dollars you hope to raise to the number of beneficiaries those dollars will help (e.g.., hitting a fundraising goal of $100,000 will help feed 250 families).

5. Refresh. It’s natural that after years of the same board makeup, things will start to feel a bit stale. Don’t wait for members to retire to refresh your board with fresher minds. New creativity and perspective can reinvigorate old hands and rekindle the flame of their relationship with your organization.

Deanna Cioppa is a freelance writer who has written for AARP, ESPN The Magazine and Fodor’s. This is her second piece for RelSci.

RelSci is a technology solutions company that helps create competitive advantage through a crucial yet vastly underutilized asset: relationship capital with influential decision makers. 
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