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Nonprofit Strategies Manager Beth McCray shares her tips for recruiting and engaging nonprofit board members.

Board members can be your organization’s greatest advocates, but building an engaged, effective Board of Directors takes time and effort. If your board isn’t quite where you’d like them to be, our team can help.

In this four-minute video, part of our ongoing Nonprofit Toolkit, Nonprofit Strategies Manager Beth McCray shares her tips for building an engaged and active nonprofit board of directors.

Recruit Mission-aligned Board Members

The key to making your board members your biggest advocates is by first getting them to believe in your mission. Whether it's being socially responsible or investing in community-led solutions, you want to ensure each board member's values in and outside of work align with your organization’s strategies and goals.

"When someone joins your board, they are making a public commitment to support, strengthen and provide their leadership and expertise so your organization’s mission can flourish and thrive,” says Beth. “But every board is different, so how do you prepare your board members to be effective advocates?”

Turn Board Orientation Into an Opportunity to Build Advocates

Before you can prepare your board to advocate on behalf of your organization, you must set clear expectations. Make sure incoming board members understand your mission, policies, programs and needs. In her video, Beth shares a few tips for cultivating board advocacy, including:

  • Help your board members understand the needs and goals of your organization. This is especially helpful as they work to connect your nonprofit with potential donors.
  • Encourage your board members to review the policies and procedures related to giving and endowments.
  • Prepare a dashboard to make critical updates and information easy to read, at a glance.
  • Hold your board members accountable — identify and communicate ways that your team will keep your board accountable to their own goals.

When someone joins your board, they are making a public commitment to support, strengthen and provide their leadership and expertise so your organization’s mission can flourish and thrive.

Beth McCray, Nonprofit Strategies Manager

Prepare Your Board Members to Make Fundraising Asks on Your Behalf

“I’m a firm believer that fundraising is a major responsibility of being on a board. It’s something that not everyone is great at, but there are little things that each member of your board can do to make sure your organization is successful,” Beth says.

Among these board fundraising tips are:

  • Equip and inform your board members — make sure they know your fundraising goals, and any planned giving or endowment goals your team is working on.
  • Education is key. Our team hosts periodic seminars on planned giving and endowments that your board members can attend. If you are a nonprofit fundholder with the Foundation, our team can also join your next board meeting to provide helpful tips and training around fundraising.

It’s a lot to have someone ask for money on your behalf, so it’s valuable to know your board members’ strengths. Lean in to those on your board who are natural born fundraisers and find opportunities to teach those who aren’t about the importance of investing and growing your organization into perpetuity.

If you are in need of additional resources that offer board training, visit Propel Nonprofits and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

Maintain Lasting Relationships with Former Board Members

When board members step down or move on to other boards, make sure to keep in contact. Former board members can also be great advocates. They know your organization and understand its mission and policies. These individuals usually have an invested interest in your work and can be great connecters to other financial resources and donors.

We know working with your board to further your organization’s mission and goals may seem overwhelming, but we can help. Find more tips like this in our Nonprofit Toolkit, or contact Beth. We’d love to work with you on a personalized approach to help you achieve your nonprofit's fundraising goals.

This post was originally published in 2021 and updated Jan. 13, 2023.

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