Treating Board Members Like Donors

Different board membersA long time ago, you met a person so committed to your organization, so passionate about your cause that you invited him or her to help direct the vision.  A momentous responsibility that all too often quickly turns into an extremely under-appreciated role.

Board members are invited to serve for a variety of reasons: their skill sets, their connections, their work ethic, their checkbooks, their passion, their willingness, their relationships, etc…

And they agreed to take the position for any of their reasons: they want to help any way they can, they want to ensure the organization heads in a specific direction, they are doing someone a favor, they want to build their resume, they have the time and energy, they believe passionately about the organization, they were asked, etc…

And they each play a role in the makeup of your board:

  • The money
  • The worker bee
  • The know it all
  • The specialized skill
  • The will volunteer for anything
  • The bare-minimum person
  • The __________________________

Most organizations require all board members to contribute at a specified financial level.  And yet, as time goes by, the more helpful the board member, the less he or she is treated like a donor.  The money becomes an expectation, and as far as the “donor” is concerned, the money is a payment as part of the board expectations.  They are rarely solicited to determine an appropriate level of giving, just a few words in passing saying something like, “please give what you can.”   They get the generic thank you notes because the staff doesn’t feel that they need to worry about them (read: focus any additional attention on these people).

The problem with this situation is two-fold:

  1. The board members feel unappreciated – needless to say that this is never a good thing for any donor.
  2. The funds often decrease or disappear within a few years of stepping off of the board – even if there is an alumni board in place.

Why would organizations take those most committed to the organization, burn them out and make them feel unappreciated.   It’s safe to say it is not an intentional strategy.

What can you do?
Write personalized notes on each and every thank you.   Solicit them or have a fellow board member solicit them each year (this will also make future post-board solicitations seem natural and even expected).  Give them special donor benefits.  Treat them with respect and value.  And hopefully, they will reciprocate for many years into the future.