Keeping the Board Engaged and Inspired

Needed:  Ideas for Engaging and Inspiring Board Members

The #1 challenge heard repeatedly about nonprofit board members: How do we keep our board members inspired and engaged?

Is it any wonder this is a challenge? The average nonprofit has something like nineteen board members, eight board meetings a year, lasting two hours each, 67% attendance, six-year term limits, people rotating on and off every year, each board member serving on another board or two, etc. Yet somehow, in spite of those facts, boards are expected to remain inspired and govern a nonprofit organization brilliantly, even in these challenging economic times.

Is there a predictable pathway to igniting and engaging board members?  Is there a way to involve board members in designing and implementing a plan to attain long-term financial sustainability for the organization?

What greater challenge and what greater contribution for a board member to make!?    Please weigh in on how to achieve this substantial and critical goal…


About Gary Coiro

Nonprofit & Church Leader Nonprofit Leader and Consultant since 2004, following 15 years as a pastor. Competencies include board development, fundraising, staff development and management, strategic planning, church work, Bible teaching, and capital campaigns. Currently consulting and serving on the Church Ministries Management Team for a large multi-cultural evangelical church.
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3 Responses to Keeping the Board Engaged and Inspired

  1. Great question, Gary! And such a pervasive problem that it keeps me fully engaged as a consultant. After years of working with over 1000 nonprofit boards, I saw patterns emerging. I realized that most organizations aren’t really inviting their board members into authentic leadership. When we allow our boards to define the mission, set the strategic goals (based on their own homework) and articulate the organization’s outcomes/impact on end-users, they get more deeply engaged organically. But most organizations put barriers in front of their boards that keep them from being the powerful leaders they long to be (and are capable of being). I’m eager to see what others think too.

  2. Jerry Storz says:

    Gary, I’m just finishing my dissertation in “Faith-based Nonprofit Boards: What are the Challenges?” So, my head is full of textbook or research knowlege and I’m trying to grapple with a reality check and how does this apply to the real world? My immediate response to your question though would be, does it depend on which governance model the organization is following? Research tells us there are several governance models out there (Carvers-Policy Governance Theory; Fram & Brown-The Corporate Theory; Block and Rosenburg-The Founders/Working Board Model; Brown-Governance Excellence Model). Anxious to follow this discussion and perhaps even add additional information to the final chapters of the finished dissertation project!

  3. Marcy says:

    Great questions to an ongoing conversation. I think it comes down to meaning. When the mission & the work of the organization is engaging and meaningful to board members enough to want to participate, there is a sense of purpose. Otherwise it’s a resume item, a networking opportunity, or the thing you have just done for years. Been on both sides, currently as staff feeling the effects of an apathetic, rudderless group.

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