Judging a Nonprofit by its Board

This is Part 3 in a mini-series that asks – how do people determine which organizations deserve their donations? While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (or as a sign in my local library reminded me – you shouldn’t judge a book by its movie), should you judge a nonprofit by its direct mail?  Staff?  Physical Location?  Articles in the newspaper?  Facebook page?  Gala? Should you be judging a nonprofit by its board?

Problem: Staff and boards sometimes have a love/hate relationship.  This co-dependent, symbiotic situation often leaves questions as to how people speak for and about the organization.  This can lead to large gaps between what is said and the realities of the organization as well as how the nonprofit would like to present itself.

Solution: Who holds the ultimate responsibility has to be determined clearly and definitively. However, ensuring they work together cohesively is the staff’s responsibility.  In addition to the solutions mentioned in Judging a Nonprofit by its Messaging and Judging a Nonprofit by its Gala consider having a marketing plan that includes mission-driven highlights that can be shared in board and committee meetings and letting everyone (who will listen) know how the organization would like to be perceived.

Because the board possesses intimate knowledge of the nonprofit, these highlights can include financial, development-related, or any committee related story that stresses the core focus of the agency as well as how it helps further the mission. But, be clear what can be shared with the general public and what can be shared to encourage stronger relationships with volunteers, donors and prospects.

In addition, do little things that ensure board members are aware of what the public sees (taking them out of the bubble of the inner workings).  They should be receiving all emails, calendars and event listings.  Place hard copies of brochures and marketing materials on a side table in the board room before a meeting so that people can browse the pieces while others are arriving or before they leave.  Circulate important changes in policies that are distributed to clients or members.  Make it clear that you are not asking for markups or changes, but simply ensuring they are aware of the way the organization presents itself.  The bonus here is that someone may let you know if the organization is sending too many communications or getting off track.  And it shows off the staff’s hard work.

For more ideas on how your organization is perceived, consider reading:  Judging a Nonprofit by its Messaging and Judging a Nonprofit by its Gala.