When is the last time you talked with a friend or acquaintance about your nonprofit’s work? Sometimes such a conversation starts organically or almost by accident, but as a board member you can be intentional about discussing causes you believe in.
You don’t have to stand on a soapbox or beat a drum or even ask for donations. You can simply talk about why you are serving on the board of directors of your organization and how thankful you are for their important work in the community.
Such a conversation from the heart often bolsters a board member’s own status even if that is not a motivating factor. You will also be raising the visibility and stature of volunteer board service at a time when it is more important than ever.
People today hunger for meaning in their life, so hearing from a friend about commitment to a cause that serves others is inspiring.
Board members are highly respected in the community.
BoardSource points out that “board members are uniquely positioned to be successful advocates and ambassadors for their missions. As business leaders, community volunteers, philanthropists, and opinion leaders, they have the connections, the confidence, the respect needed to speak up on behalf of their organizations.”
But only 52 percent reported that their board members are actively involved in advocating for their missions.
Governing Good, a source for nonprofit leadership, explains that board members of social sector organizations tend to be regarded as genuine, altruistic, public service-minded and reflective of the average person in their community. They further remind us that “all board members can bring to every external encounter, the ability to leave a positive impression of themselves, the cause and the organization on whose board they sit.”
Spreading the word about your organization’s vital work educates the community and provides free publicity for your nonprofit. And who better to wave the flag than the group’s own board members?
Think about this: If five board members each have a conversation with two friends or colleagues, and each of those 10 people talk to two others, the word spreads exponentially. And if the five board members engage in a little listening as well as explaining then they may gather a little more community “intelligence” to improve their own context for board leadership.
Have fun by being intentional about your flag waving.
At first the idea of starting a dialogue with a friend or colleague might feel awkward. But if you make a roadmap for yourself, it will seem easier. Start by making a list of all the opportunities you may have to tell others about your nonprofit’s good work. For example:
- Which service clubs do you belong to (like Rotary or Kiwanis)?
- Do you belong to a Chamber of Commerce?
- Which of your friends, acquaintances or colleagues might be interested in hearing about your nonprofit’s work?
Now think about what approach might work best to talk about your cause. I know one attorney, for example, who introduces himself in public settings as a member of a certain board of directors rather than focusing on his law firm.
Perhaps you could arrange for your Rotary Club to invite your organization’s executive director to speak at a club meeting and even introduce him/her yourself.
Another idea is to bring your executive director to a meeting as your guest and when you stand up to introduce her/him be sure to add that you sit on the board of directors.
You can tailor your approach when it comes to your friends and acquaintances. Make a list of those who you think might be interested in your nonprofit’s mission and then simply tell them about a new project or why you are excited to serve on the board.
People will be inspired by your commitment. I guarantee that it will be fun.
Do you have a relationship with a local reporter or are you tuned into Board of Supervisors meetings or City Council meetings? Find ways to use your connections to promote your nonprofit.
You can invite the reporter to write a public interest story about your nonprofit. You can simply attend a few meetings of the Board of Supervisors or City Council and mention to others about your board membership.
In a nutshell, find ways to highlight your good work so your nonprofit stands out amid the hundreds of others out there. Watch Simon Sinek’s short video, Start With Why, and remind yourself why you are involved in your mission and why it matters. People will be drawn to you and inspired by you and your commitment and vision.
Being an ambassador is a responsibility of all nonprofit board members.
My last articles focused on governance as an essential board responsibility. Keeping the organization true to its mission, ensuring adherence to internal policies and bylaws, and supporting the executive director are critical aspects of good board governance.
Likewise, overseeing the fiscal health of the organization, monitoring any conflicts of interest, and ensuring all financial policies are in order comprise some of the fiscal responsibilities of a board.
However, being an active ambassador and advocate for the organization’s mission is an equally essential responsibility of all board members. Waving the flag in the community for the nonprofit will be different for each person, but it is critical to the success of the organization that the message is proclaimed in a clear, compelling way.
Board members have the greatest credibility in this regard because they are volunteers and typically leaders in community circles. Therefore, I urge all board members to identify ways they can be enthusiastic promoters of their organization’s mission.
Remember that the more people in the community who know about your work, the easier it will be to raise necessary funds to ensure the solid financial state of your nonprofit. So go out there, wave the flag and have fun inspiring your friends and colleagues.