Board member engagement can be a tricky business.
While we want (and need) the engagement of Board members in some ways (think opening the door to a generous friend), we don’t need (or want) their engagement in other ways (think telling you who to hire).
We know, though, that appropriate Board engagement is healthy and helpful, both for the Board member as well as the institution. Appropriate Board member engagement leads to a deeper, more meaningful sense of service and, also, to increased charitable support over time. Regardless of how difficult and complicated the process might seem, it’s in everyone’s best interests to engage Board members meaningfully and in ways that support our institution’s advancement.
Here, then, is a novel approach, especially for Board members who serve on the Advancement/Development Committee.
One way the Advancement/Development Committee of the Board can be helpful is to serve as “practice partners” for your teams’ major gift officers, or the DOD, or the Annual Giving Director. Here is how a “practice partnership” could work:
- Board member agrees to have lunch/coffee/meet with the advancement team member and play the role of a potential donor;
- The advancement team member comes to the meeting prepared under the pretext of meeting with this potential donor;
- The advancement team member will come prepared to ask a number of Discovery questions of the Board member to “practice” the art of learning more about a potential donor prospect;
- After the meeting, the Board member will participate in a brief review of the meeting and provide feedback to the team member and his supervisor – with a focus on building on the positives of the meeting.
One could envision Board members serving as “practice partners” for solicitation visits as well.
Engaging Board members as “practice partners,” would serve the Board member by providing a meaningful and certainly helpful volunteer activity. The advancement team member would be served by participating in a “true-to-life” professional development opportunity. The institution benefits by educating and focusing everyone more on the importance of strategic donor engagement.
The question is not, “how do we keep Board members out of our business?” The question is, “how can we leverage Board members to better advance our institution?”
Advancement professionals should practice the craft more (a lot more). Board members should help in ways that make the program and the team more productive.
Engaging these successful, supportive, and experienced individuals as “practice partners” is a way to make both happen.