Guilty As Charged: Prove Your Board Supports Your Organization

Before a jury of their peers, would your board members be found guilty of supporting your organization? Would a lawyer find enough evidence to convict them? Below is a list of evidence to make the case. Use it to help your board prove their guilt.

Evidence #1. Gifts. Determine the amount of money your board gives over the course of a year. What is the total? What is the range of gifts? Has either increased in recent years? If yes, note this fact.

Evidence #2. Percent Who Give. This is the number who give divided by the total number of members. Many donors require 100 percent participation. Why would someone less familiar with your organization, like a new donor or national foundation, be more committed than people close to it like board members? While the amount given by board members is important to your organization’s finances, to outside donors the percent that give according to their means is the critical evidence.

Evidence #3. Attend Board Meetings. How many board members attend meetings regularly? Here is how this was reported in the corporate world, “In 2009, our Board met 10 times. In addition to meetings of the Board, directors attended meetings of individual Board committees. In 2009, all of the directors attended at least 75 percent of the Board meetings and meetings of the Board committees . . .”

Evidence #4. Committee Participation and Leadership. Board participation on committees supports the smooth functioning of your organization. It helps the board to do board business quickly and its future meetings. A Mylan Corporate Report provides a chart of directors and listed the Board committees to which they belonged on one axis. Instead of check-mark to designate participation, they used a “C” to indicate the chair and an “M” for members.  Copying this format allows you to convey a lot of information in a small space.

Evidence #5. Hands-on. Do your board members interact with the people your organization serves? Hands-on engagement differs from committee work. This includes time spent engaged in the organization’s services like attending plays, building at Habitat and helping with registration. Direct service experiences help board members to improve their knowledge base for decision-making.

Evidence #6. Stewardship. Besides leading in giving to the organization, guilty board members also encourage others to give. How many of your board members encourage existing donors to continue and enhance their relationship with your organization? For evidence include activities, like making thank you telephone calls, meeting with county commissioners who contract with your organization and visiting with donors to learn about their interests or to request major gifts.

Evidence #7. Connections. Do your board members help you to make new community connections? This piece of proof includes the number of members who help you to obtain and grow in-kind resources, connections, and partnerships. If Joe helps you to receive a $5,000 discount on your technology purchase, most jury’s would find Joe’s guilty of supporting your organization. To enhance organizational memory, estimate the total number of connections created and generate a list of them, i.e., Swift Printing Company, Royal Bank and Webby Website.

Evidence #8. Friends. Connections explores the number of organizations with whom a board member linked you. “Friends” looks at evidence that your board members helped you to connect with or deepen connections with individuals. Maria invites eight people to sit at her table during your special event. Tyrone takes you to lunch at his club meeting. Some overlap will exist between #7 and #8. Your board member can help you connect with the local bank and personally with the bank president. When board members help you to make new friends you enlarge the size of the community involved in your organization.

Evidence #9. Get Smart. This piece of evidence represents the number of board members who participated in educational experiences regarding board responsibilities or to learn more about your mission. Includeoffsite-events and educational events you bring to the board and reading books and articles.

Evidence #10. Other. Each organization offers unique opportunities and additional ways to measure board involvement, like participating in your speaker’s bureau. What additional support is needed? What are your unique opportunities? How might you measure other forms of active support? Do you want to offer any new opportunities, like job shadowing or an orientation experience for new board members? Do you have a legacy society that board members can join?

When it comes to board support you want a lot of evidence and a guilty conviction. Share this list with your board. Here is a chart you can use. Ask them to help you to collect evidence and prove their guilt. You will learn that some members already provide the support that has not been recognized to date. Some members will learn new ways to increase their support.

Gather this information. Share the results with your board members. Include a mean, mode and the range. Celebrate their “guilt.” Challenge them to be guiltier in the future. Then include this and other information in your written documents like your case statement, grants, and annual reports so that your donors and the community understand the commitment that stands behind your organization. Help your board members to be guilty—very guilty—of supporting your organization, so that you can say, “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you must find these board members guilty.”