With gratitude at center stage this Thanksgiving week, it seems timely to consider how nonprofits express appreciation. Donors, volunteers, sometimes staff get letters, events, awards, and perhaps other forms of much-deserved recognition for their efforts and resources. But what do we do for board members?
Often we critique board members’ performance and question their commitment, if not to their organizations’ missions, then to their roles. While it’s critically important to assess their individual and collective performance and promote continuous improvement, board members also deserve our thanks.
First of all, they, too, are volunteers, asked to give tirelessly of their time, attention, expertise, and resources. If they’re taking their roles as seriously as the (typically) unpaid jobs they are, board members also are losing sleep and working nearly all the time to represent, champion, and serve their organizations well.
How to thank them, though, in a meaningful way that doesn’t over-extend staff or executive management? According to an npENGAGE blogger, simply saying “thank you” to your biggest donors – the board of directors — is a great start. Appreciation is something that’s felt and will be missed unless it’s expressed in written or spoken words.
Gifts are another idea which aren’t favored by all, but can be effective when chosen and presented well. An npENGAGE example is covering the cost of travel for board members attending the annual board retreat and leaving a small gift in their rooms upon arrival. Other ideas include a thank you reception, perhaps hosted at the home of the CEO, and customized electronic thank you’s, such as an e-card or a slideshow.
Of course, gratitude need not be expressed solely in tangible ways. The Philanthropy News Digest offers some techniques to help board members feel appreciated below.
Some Board Appreciation Ideas
- Common courtesy
- The easiest way to honor and appreciate volunteer board members happens to be free. A proper greeting, commitment to starting and ending meetings on time, soliciting and respecting their input, etc. can demonstrate your respect and appreciation of their time and contributions.
- Public recognition
- We all appreciate a little acknowledgement of our effort, so take advantage of the countless opportunities to thank a board member in front of others. Kudos shared with an audience of colleagues or staff can promote teamwork and loyalty, while repeatedly failing to acknowledge board members’ efforts can discourage them and cost you their commitment.
- Walk the walk
- Board members want to know their contributions matter to your organization, so keeping a running list of their ideas and turn them into action when possible.
- Continual learning
- Adults like to impart knowledge and learn, so provide education and growth opportunities for board members. Encourage them to share their expertise with each other and connect with influential community members outside the organization when possible.
- Let them shine
- Know your board members and determine when they’re willing to play a leadership role, whether on a project, a committee, or a discussion. Gaining recognition will be easier when they assume visible roles.
- Keep an eye on the executive committee
- If you have an executive committee, protect the board’s authority as a whole. Board members who perceive the “real” work was done in advance of a board meeting will feel their time is wasted.
Anything that makes board members feel their time and ideas are valued can inspire gratitude. Even offering tools that make their work easier, such as board management software, can demonstrate your thankfulness for their service. No matter what mechanisms you use, remember to keep at it – expressing appreciation is an ongoing activity.