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Board Appreciation Ideas

6 Simple Board Appreciation Ideas for Mission-Driven Organizations


With gratitude at center stage Thanksgiving week, it seems timely to consider how mission-driven organizations express appreciation. Donors, volunteers and sometimes staff get letters, events, awards, and other forms of much-deserved recognition for their efforts and resources. But what do we do for our volunteer board members? Here are some simple suggestions for ways to show your appreciation for your board members.

Why and How To Thank Your Volunteer 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. And, 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 (or cost too much)? According to the ENGAGE blog, 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, while not favored by all, can be effective when chosen and presented well. Other ideas to thank your volunteer board members include:

  • Covering the cost of travel for board members attending the annual board retreat and leaving a small gift in their rooms upon arrival.
  • Hosting a thank you reception, perhaps hosted at the home of the CEO.
  • Customized electronic thank yous, such as an e-card or a slideshow.
  • Celebrating them in a public forum.
  • Holding a breakfast or lunch for your board trustees.

Of course, gratitude need not be expressed solely in tangible ways. The Philanthropy News Digest offers suggestions to help board members feel appreciated, including giving “little gifts” or sending handwritten, sincere notes. As Bob Reticker, a senior performance consultant at HR firm Insperity, points out, “A personal note written with sincerity and specifics can sometimes mean the most.”

Some Board Appreciation Ideas

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. “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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Ask them how they’d like to be thanked: Use the survey tools on your board management software to collect feedback from board trustees about how they would like to be celebrated. This will help you to tailor recognition and celebrations to their individual preferences.

Anything that makes board members feel their time and ideas are valued can engage and keep them motivated. 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.

BoardEffect is designed with the unique needs of volunteer boards in mind. Our nonprofit board management software streamlines board processes, enhances communication and promotes accountability, helping you to become an efficient and effective board.

To learn more about how a BoardEffect board management system can serve your mission-driven organization, request a demo today.

Sonia J. Stamm

Sonia J. Stamm is Founder and Principal of Stamm Consultancy Inc., a boutique consulting firm established in 2008 to guide nonprofits through critical junctures in their development. With over 25 years of experience in organizational development, Sonia partners with nonprofit boards and executive leadership to facilitate best practices in board development and governance, strategic planning, leadership transition and succession, and organizational effectiveness. Since almost its inception, she has been affiliated with BoardEffect to share perspective on how boards can best implement board management software in the effort to advance their organizations’ mission.

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