By Linda B. Haley, CFRE, President & CEO

It’s that time of year! Spring has sprung and the summer months are here – and folks are waving their sparkly new engagement rings all over social media. In the spirit of engagement, can we talk about BOARD engagement?

So often, we say how much we want our board members to engage – but then, when they do, maybe it’s not exactly the kind of engagement we had in mind. Why is that?

Let me hazard a couple of guesses. Either a) Executive Directors and Board Chairs hurriedly create board agendas in a vacuum with minimal input from leadership staff…or maybe b) committees begin work either without a clear purpose and fully defined meaningful work OR with a purpose defined by the committee, not the staff.

Sit and think about that for a moment, would you? We are letting, indeed, asking our board members – who do NOT work at our nonprofit or in our professional space – to be experts in our nonprofits and in our professional space. Kind of makes you scratch your head, doesn’t it?

Why does this incongruity occur? I think it’s because nonprofit staff – including senior leadership – often feel uncomfortable being tell-directed with board members. Maybe we want to be grateful and respectful – both good things. But in truth what we’re doing is creating a knowledge gap – and our board members, most of whom love us and would do just about anything for us, fill that gap with their best inclinations for what might be helpful. See the rub?

As nonprofit leaders, it’s our job to set a clear purpose for the board and its committees. It’s our job to give the board and its committeesmeaningful work. Just “reporting out” and then asking them to weigh in is not enough. We as staff must sit together and ask ourselves, “What do we really need our board members – each board member – to do for us? What tasks will be helpful for moving the organization forward while providing a meaningful experience for our board members?” It’s tough but scintillating work!

To be mutually successful, we must define that work clearly, specifying staff/board roles and responsibilities – when everyone knows what her job is, the work gets done, feelings are spared, board and staff are satisfied and fulfilled, and the nonprofit grows in power around its mission. Doesn’t that sound great? Let me tell you from someone who’s tried it – it is!

Want to learn more about how to create meaningful work for your board members? Contact Let’s Build Hope – we want to hear from you: (314) 716-2496 or

#LBH #LetsBuildHope #GlimmersOfHope #MeaningfulWork #ChangeTheCulture #BoardStaffTeamwork!

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