So your Board has lost that loving feeling. There’s a mood of reluctance and apathy in its place. And you still have things that need to get done. Projects that need attention and people in need of help.
So, what do you do? Fire everyone and start over? Throw a tantrum? Raise up your hands in frustration?
Before you do that, I have a few better ideas.
There’s an old saying that you’ll get what you expect. So, if you enter the room thinking that no one wants to do anything, they’ll most likely live up to your expectations. So what to do instead? I prefer to go through life with the expectation that people, deep down, really want to make the world a better place. We just have different ways of accomplishing that. And just because your way is different than mine doesn’t mean that yours (or mine) is any less valid. So my first core recommendation is to change your mindset first and expect great (and unexpected) things to happen.
This second mindset shift may seem like a no-brainer. Let people do what they’re there for – and let it be meaningful to them. Whatever you do, if someone is doing something differently than you would do – don’t step in to do it your way instead. That’s one of the quickest ways to discourage involvement and engagement. I mean really, why should they do anything if you’re just going to do it anyway. And if they don’t know what they’re there for, perhaps it’s time for a strategic planning retreat.
One of the best ways to get board members engaged is to revisit the mission of the organization on a regular basis. I often recommend have a ‘moment for mission’ at the beginning of each board meeting to help people be inspired all over again.
Sometimes though, something more drastic needs to be done. In those cases, consider starting a committee or other subgroup to work on the issue that is most pressing for your organization. Often times, the excitement from that activity will help inspire the rest of the board to become more inspired. Sometimes it just takes a spark to get the fire going.
Finally, sometimes it could be that the chapter of involvement with the board member has come to its natural close. Not all volunteers will be involved for life, and that has to be okay too. Seeing that as the natural progression of the volunteer lifecycle, rather than a terrible parting of ways, can be helpful. Celebrate their time with you, wish them well, and by all means keep them on your donor prospect list.
I hope that gave you some food for thought. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments!