Don’t Meddle – Don’t Manage – Just Govern (and raise money!)

Well thanks to a Twitter friend, who would like to remain anonymous, for this topic. They sent me a direct message on Twitter and suggested the title. I added the ‘raise money’ part (of course)!

They have a point. Could and should we put this at the top of our Board job descriptions? On the cover page of our Board handbook? On the back of their name plates during Board meetings (where I have usually placed the organization mission)?

I think forming, recruiting, orientating and engaging a Board is all about communication. The title is honest and direct. I think that is the only way to communicate with people. So why not with Board members?

We are responsible for the Board members we have. If we are not looking for great donors and potential Board members, it is our fault if we have leadership who don’t show up or “meddle” in issues that don’t concern them. I also believe Board members micro-manage when we don’t focus their energies and attention.  As far as I am concerned, the focus should be on fundraising.

We need to be absolutely, positively, crystal clear about what we want, expect, need and will do for and with Board members. I think recruiting conversations should go something like this,

“You have been a long time and generous supporter of our organization. Your involvement and interest has allowed us to grow and change to meet the ever increasing needs in our community. We would like to invite you to serve on the Board of Directors, but before you say yes, let us tell you what that means.

  • Every Board member makes a financial contribution to our organization. Last year the average gift was $5,000. We know you have been giving and this would be an increase, but we believe leadership should lead in all areas.
  • In addition every Board member helps raise money from their friends, family, community and colleagues. Last year the Board raised 20% of our budget or $500,000 through fundraising events, annual campaign and individual and corporate cultivation and solicitation.
  • The Board meets every month on the third Wednesday. Each Board member is allowed two excused absences per year. We make sure the Board meetings are engaging, informative and substantive. We are committed to supporting those who support us.
  • We have six Board committees and ask every Board member to serve on two.
  • The organization hosts two major fundraisers annually and every Board member is expected to buy a table and sell a table.
  • We will be entering a strategic planning period as our latest plan will expire in one year. This will require the efforts, talents and time of everyone committed to helping our community grow. The planning should take 90-150 days and will require time during the regular Board meetings as well as off line conversations, surveys and meetings in between.

I think this conversation is very clear about what the organization expects of a Board member. There can be no doubt about where Board members should direct their energies. Next blog post will cover what the organization does for its Board members – because it is a partnership and there must be give and take!

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