Real Life Board Experience—Confessions of a Newbie

Communication is the staple of a stellar nonprofit board. Unfortunately, board member communication is also the hardest part about being on a board.

Although your board members are passionate about the cause, it’s not the only thing they’re passionate about. Your board members have lives outside of your organization. They have real-life struggles, families and extracurricular activities.

I’ve only been a part of this nonprofit marketing board for a little over a month now, although I had helped out a great deal at the organization last year for a big project. I was thrilled to join on top of all the other things I’m juggling.

No sooner than I learned everyone’s names did I encounter the first hurdle. We needed to get a vote out quickly on an issue so it was sent by email. Can you even legally vote by email? Yes, in some cases, but make sure you know the rules in your state before trying to conduct board business this way.

Whoops, Life Happened

Back to that email—I was on vacation and simply looked at the email. “I’ll get to that to tonight,” I thought to myself. Guess what? I never did (feel free to unleash the public shaming). A little fun in the sun happened and I forgot to vote on the issue. Sure, it wasn’t a life or death situation—but it was important enough for the board to vote on.

Solving communication issues like that isn’t an easy task because simply put—life happens.

Forewarning is great, but not always possible. Sometimes life creep up. A simple conversation can derail your thought process and send you spinning Send out an email and if you don’t hear from everybody, send out reminders. You shouldn’t have to babysit the board members that don’t chime in, but reminders are helpful if you want 100 percent participation.

Utilize New Communication Methods

Depending on the demographic for your board (or how willing they are to try new things) you can use different forms of technology to make sure everybody is in the loop. Email works great, but there are other options.

For example, GroupMe is a great app that allows you to select individuals and message everybody through their phones. It’s like group texting made easier. The only concern your board could run into is whether or not each board member has a smartphone and if they’re willing to download the app. The great part is that you can receive push notifications, alerting each member every time a communication is posted.

You can also do something as simple as starting a Facebook group with everybody where you can easily message back and forth (assuming each member has Facebook).

What other communication tips or resources do you have to help nonprofit boards run like a well-oiled machine?


Lyndsey Hrabik

Lyndsey is a former editor for Nonprofit Hub and Nonprofit Hub Magazine. She now serves as a guest contributor, writing on topics such as social media, technology, marketing and starting a nonprofit.

August 3, 2015

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