Motivating Nonprofit Boards: How To Foster Board Engagement

Imagine stepping into a board room where the air is teeming with excitement. Every board member is eager to contribute, share insights, and support a mission they deeply believe in. This is a tangible reality that could await your nonprofit.

Whether you’re an executive director or a board member yourself, there are several strategies that can boost board motivation. We’ll explore three approaches that nonprofits typically find success with:

A motivated board is a powerhouse of strategic thinking, resource mobilization, and governance that can help your organization navigate challenges and seize opportunities swiftly. They’re excited to provide direction, fundraise, and do whatever it takes to push your mission forward. It’s time to reignite your board’s passion!

Clarify Roles and Expectations.

You want every member of your board on the same page and fully aware of how their contributions fit into your nonprofit’s mission. That’s why it’s important to clarify responsibilities before new members join and continue to reiterate expectations throughout their board service.

Here’s how you can provide clarification from the start:

  • Create detailed role descriptions for each board position. Outline specific responsibilities, expected time commitments, and how each member contributes to the organization’s mission.
  • Offer a thorough orientation. Start new board members off on the right foot with sufficient training. Your orientation should walk board members through their roles, legal duties to your nonprofit, and the organization’s strategic plan. This is also a great opportunity to cover your nonprofit’s history and programs.
  • Assign mentors to new board members. Pair newer members with experienced ones to teach them their responsibilities and the nuances of your nonprofit. This also gives newcomers a friendly face in the boardroom, helping them to feel confident speaking up during meetings.
  • Conduct board evaluations. Regularly assess each board member’s performance at least every two years. Regular reviews create the perfect opportunity to provide constructive feedback, remind board members about expectations, and identify improvement opportunities.

Remember, your board members are volunteers, and for these passionate volunteers to stick around, they need thorough guidance. Take these steps and encourage board members to talk to one another when they need clarification. Overall, detailed guidance will enable board members to navigate their duties confidently and effectively.

Develop A Culture of Recognition.

Your board members work hard to provide your nonprofit with strategic direction and vital resources. eCardWidget’s guide to board member appreciation shares how recognizing these contributions fosters an environment where they feel valued and connected to your cause, inspiring them to continue serving.

To cultivate a positive culture, implement regular recognition practices. One of the easiest, most consistent ways to accomplish this is with appreciation eCards. eCards are digital greeting cards that you can customize for any occasion. Try sending your board members eCards for these occasions:

  • Thank You eCards: For general appreciation, these eCards express gratitude for the board member’s time, commitment, and efforts in supporting your nonprofit’s mission. Send them after board meetings, events, or at the end of successful campaigns. Try connecting each card to a specific value your nonprofit has, such as leadership, commitment, and teamwork.
  • Milestone Achievement eCards: Celebrate individual or collective milestones, such as completing a major project, reaching fundraising targets, or commemorating board service anniversaries.
  • Birthday and Holiday eCards: Send personalized eCards for birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions. Valuing personal milestones can help nonprofits build stronger relationships with board members outside of the boardroom.

Your eCard website and design tools should let you create eCards for each of these occasions. Ensure it provides plenty of customizable templates, so you can add your nonprofit’s personal touch to each card.

If possible, make it so your entire board can send eCards to one another, allowing them to recognize each other for their contributions and times that they embody organization-wide values. Peer-to-peer recognition like this can help build camaraderie among board members and enhance engagement.

Create board recognition eCards like this one that says “Thank you for committing to our value: Respect.”

All in all, appreciation eCards not only boost morale but also reinforce the importance of each member’s role in advancing your organization’s mission.

Make Fundraising Enjoyable.

Let’s look at one common responsibility that often causes pushback from board members: fundraising.

Board members can expand the organization’s donor base by leveraging their networks, credibility, and commitment to ensure the organization’s financial sustainability. However, our 2024 Fundraising Outlook Report found that board involvement in fundraising is a critical challenge.

To combat this challenge, you can make fundraising more enjoyable, so board members are more willing to participate. Try out these strategies:

  • Provide training and support. Make sure board members know what they’re doing! Host training sessions and provide learning resources to equip them with skills and confidence to fundraise effectively. Teach them about donor communications, legal requirements for fundraising, and how to articulate your case for support. You might even dedicate part of each board meeting to discussing fundraising successes and challenges together.
  • Introduce gamification into the mix. Create fundraising challenges or competitions that make the process more engaging. Use board management or fundraising software to create progress bars, leaderboards, and profile badges to celebrate milestones.
  • Provide different fundraising opportunities. NXUnite’s guide to starting a fundraiser explains there are several steps to launching a campaign. From marketing to donor appreciation, each step provides a different opportunity for board involvement, so tailor activities to align with individual board members’ interests, skills, and strengths. For example, allow board members to host peer-to-peer campaigns, act as ambassadors at events, send thank-you cards, or directly solicit donations.

Making fundraising enjoyable for board members is about creating an engaging, fulfilling, and effective approach to fundraising. Positive fundraising experiences can improve morale among board members, making them more enthusiastic ambassadors for your organization’s cause.

Don’t forget to celebrate success throughout your fundraisers! Remember, acknowledgment is a key part of motivating board members. Send a nonprofit eCard each time someone reaches a milestone to reinforce their efforts. At the end of your fundraising campaign, you can even host a celebration event to acknowledge board members’ impact.

Wrapping Up

Motivating your nonprofit’s board requires a thoughtful strategy, clear communication, and genuine appreciation for those who dedicate their time and resources to further your mission.

By setting clear expectations and making recognition a foundational element, you can help your board members feel valued, informed, and motivated to continue their invaluable work propelling your organization toward its objectives with greater enthusiasm.

Looking for more resources to motivate your nonprofit board? Check out the following articles: