How to Really Engage Your Non-Profit Board of Directors

We’ve been working with the Sierra Arts Foundation (SAF) to define their 10-year vision and build a 5-year strategic plan. It’s been a really rewarding experience working with such a talented group of mission-minded individuals.

As we moved from building their strategic objectives into goals and action plans, something really special unfolded.

Their board of directors has concrete actions and line-of-sight into how they can support the organization’s goals. And clarity is an amazing thing.

For any board responsible for fundraising, it can be challenging for board members to know, specifically, what to do to be a successful board member. Sure, fundraising is a huge component, but what else can the board accomplish to support the staff and organization to make a bigger impact in the community?

We had a huge, “ah-ha” moment that created clarity and understanding for the entire team as we moved from building their strategic objectives and goals and moved into year one action planning.

How Sierra Arts Foundation Accomplished This Feat

  • SAF completed action planning just like any other team might. This meant taking their big strategic objectives (the focus areas of their plan) and translating annual goals (what they must achieve) into 1-year actions (how they’ll achieve their goals).
  • SAF staff added a “column” for each action plan and asked, “what support or action does SAF need from the board of directors?” Of course, the staff is still accountable for the lion’s share of the action plans and goals, but it this approach to action planning that gave the team an opportunity to ask for help where the board’s expertise and connections are needed and will add big-time value.
  • SAF produced a set of requested actions for each board member by quarter. It’s not a huge laundry list, but specific activities that support the staff and the organization in achieving its goals and ultimately, making a big difference in our community. We love that!

The Impact

Plain and simple, it’s answering the age-old question every board asks, “How can I help and what specifically is expected of me?” Plus, board members now have a clearer understanding of their role in the organization and can leverage their talents and connections to help the organization really focus on what matters: providing education opportunities for artists of all ages.

Of course, after participating in the development of SAF’s strategic foundation (Mission, Vision), the board has clarity of where the organization is going and how they and the staff contribute to the achievement of SAF’s goals.

Considerations You Can Leverage

  • Include your board in the planning process! They don’t need to own as much as the staff might, but they can help the team define goals and actions beyond fundraising!
  • Encourage your team to ask for help! Beg, borrow, and steal each other’s expertise between board and staff. It makes a huge difference, and everyone wants to see the organization succeed.
  • Don’t over-do it! Board members also have other work and fundraising responsibilities. Pick a few things every quarter that will have the greatest impact!



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