Effective Engagement of Volunteer Boards

As the demand for people’s time is ever increasing in today’s over programmed society, their interest and ability to give of what they can spare is diminishing. No longer are people getting involved just because its a good cause. There needs to be a deeper connection that creates a strong affinity between the individual, the organization, and its mission. And more and more, there needs to be a direct return on investment for the volunteer. While these truths have always been present, they have never been more stark. Understanding and leveraging these ideas will help your organization achieve more success. Here’s how you can create more effective engagement of volunteer non-profit boards:

1. Be Mission Minded – lead with your values and core objectives in every conversation, meeting, and communication to your constituents. The individuals who have committed to give of their precious time did so because of what the organization does and represents. Make sure you are keeping that in front of you, your team, and all stakeholders at every opportunity. Constantly reconnecting people to the “why” will keep them consistently focused on the “how”.

2. Build Real Relationships – it is just as (and becoming more so) important for volunteers to have a relationship with the people that work for your organization, as it is with the mission itself. We all want to have meaningful and substantive connection to the people we spend time with. When a volunteer leader can give time to a cause they are passionate about and be fulfilled by the people they work alongside, their engagement will reach new heights. Both volunteers and staff will have a deeper commitment to achieve, because they won’t want to let the other down. And as the lines between “giving time to” and “spending time with” start to bleed together real win-wins will develop.

3. Actively Acknowledge – giving thanks just isn’t enough when people are giving what has become their most precious commodity. Go deeper and recognize your volunteer leaders for the things they achieve outside of your organization. Most of their life is spent in pursuit of their career goals and family happiness, and they will be deeply touched to know that you care about them for those things in addition to what they give. Actively investigate the things that matter to them and recognize them for success in those areas. Acknowledge it personally with a note, publicly at your next board meeting, and proactively in front of their peers. The more they feel valued by you, the more they will value what they do for your organization.

For non-profit organizations that depend on volunteer leadership and oversight to successfully achieve their mission, effective engagement at the board level is critical. Recognize that the face of volunteerism is rapidly changing, and be committed to adapting and innovating how you engage volunteers. Being intentional and strategic in that process will yield exponential returns.

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