Guilty As Charged: Prove Your Board Supports Your Nonprofit

a picture of a juryBefore a jury of your peers, would your board members be found guilty of supporting your organization? Would a lawyer find enough evidence to convict them? Here is the evidence you need 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 for the board? 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 donating percentage, who give according to their means, is critical evidence.

Evidence #3. Attend Board Meetings

How many board members attend your meetings? 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 your organization’s smooth functioning. Participation helps the board to do board business quickly and its future meetings. A Mylan Corporate Report provided a chart of directors and listed the Board committees to which they belonged on one axis. Instead of a check-mark to designate participation, they used a “C” to indicate the chair and an “M” for members.  Copy this format 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 improve 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 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, juries will find Joe’s guilty of supporting your organization. To enhance organizational memory, estimate the total number of connections created and generate a list, i.e., Swift Printing Company, Royal Bank, and Webby Website.

Evidence #8. Friends

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. You’re right. If you noticed that overlap exists, this evidence and Evidence#7. Your board member can help you connect with the local bank and personally with the bank president. When board members help you make new friends, you enlarge the community’s size in your organization.

Evidence #9. Get Smarter

This evidence represents the number of board members who participate in educational experiences regarding board responsibilities or your missionInclude offsite-events, and educational events you bring to the board, plus books and articles read.

Evidence #10. Other

Each organization offers unique opportunities and additional ways to measure board involvement, such as 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 new opportunities, like job shadowing or an orientation experience for new board members? Do you have a legacy society that board members can join? If yes, add these to your evidence.

When it comes to board support, you seek lots of evidence and a guilty conviction. Share this list with your board. Here is a chart you can useAsk them to help you to collect evidence to prove their guilt. Some members already provide support that you haven’t recognized. Others will learn new ways to increase their support.

Gather this information. Share the results with your board members. 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 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.”

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit CEO Library.

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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis Consulting guides executive directors and CEOs to generate the resources, boards, and support they need to make remarkable progress on their missions. As the award-winning thought-leader, advisor, and founding principal of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, Karen helps nonprofit leaders get answers, generate revenue, and grow their mission. Davis is known for her innovation and practicality based on her work with or visits to over 1,000 nonprofit organizations and her experience leading board and team events. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.