skip to Main Content
Impact As A Nonprofit Board Member

Elevating your impact as a volunteer board member


As a volunteer board member, you are in a unique position to do good in the world, both for the organization you lead and the ultimate mission served by your organization. As stewards, board members can significantly affect the ability of staff and volunteers to contribute, by setting policies, hiring and evaluating the executive director, fundraising and more.

Take one recent winner of the Center for Nonprofit Advancement’s Board Leadership Award. Outgoing board chair Shally Stanley was cited for her nine years of service, with the note that she “set a board culture of active engagement, unwavering commitment, mutual respect and accountability for each member and inspires all of us to follow in her footsteps.”

One board member can make a difference, and when you and every member of your board bring that level of commitment, the organization — and by extension its audiences — can thrive.

So, what does it take to be an engaged, contributing board member? And how can current board members and those who support them ensure the board is as strong as it can be? Consider why board engagement matters, what it looks like and how technology can support it.

Why engagement matters for volunteer board members

The engagement and enthusiasm of every single board member makes a difference to a charity or nonprofit. Board recruitment, when done well, creates a diverse group of leaders who bring complementary skills, qualities and networks to the table. When one board member is disengaged, it leaves a void that impedes the board’s ability to lead effectively and support the organization’s goals.

Many factors make each board member necessary to the team. In recent years, nonprofits have prioritized building a diverse board, but what does that mean? By representing different backgrounds, races, genders, socioeconomic experience and professions, the organization gains the perspectives necessary to introduce new ideas and creative solutions to long-time obstacles.

With that perspective and enthusiasm, the organization has a better chance of reaching its strategic goals.

Board effectiveness reflects the board’s ability to deliver on its mission and achieve its goals. Organizations must be all at once more informed, more secure, more collaborative and more purpose-driven. Our free board effectiveness checklist organized into key areas will help your nonprofit board operate even more effectively. Download it now.


How volunteer board members can be a star for their organization

Here are a few key tips for actions you can take to ensure you are bringing your best to your role as a volunteer board member.

Prepare for and attend meetings

Yes, it sounds simple, but being prepared for, attending and actively participating in meetings are the most important responsibilities you have as a board member. Board management software can make this responsibility easier by providing meeting materials in a centralized location and including built-in streaming tools that allow board members to meet from where they are.

Become (and stay) informed

You likely joined with a passion for your organization’s mission, but, unnurtured, it can wane over time. So how do you keep the flame lit? Embrace an attitude of continuous learning and improvement about your organization, its mission and audience and the climate in which it serves. This is another area technology can support — with online materials, workshops, webinars and more.

Understand your board’s unique role and responsibilities

We don’t all come to board service understanding nuances around fiduciary responsibilities, policy development and more. Acknowledging the limits of your experience and seeking to better understand your role are humbling but necessary efforts for every new board member.

Find practical ways to contribute, including active fundraising

Your network and niche of expertise both have potential to help the organization. Each board member should be prepared to leverage connections to help their organization — with fundraising, yes, but also other resources local and beyond that can benefit the mission. Administrators and staff should prioritize making tools and training available to support these efforts.

Be an advocate

Now is not the time to be a shrinking violet. Nonprofits depend on their board to speak on their behalf, often in an advocacy role. Similarly, you should be ready to advocate with your network as well. But board members also should not be reluctant to ask for what they need to serve in their role. Check into your board management solution for talking points, strategic goals progress and other resources that you can use for your advocacy work.

“Board members also should not be reluctant to ask for what they need to serve in their role. Check into your board management solution for talking points, strategic goals progress and other resources that you can use for your advocacy work.”

Use time effectively

You were already busy before taking on this role, and chances are, those other commitments have not disappeared. Make sure you are preparing effectively for board meetings by using the features of your board management software to work on the go and save time.

Build strong and collaborative relationships with fellow directors and staff

No nonprofit benefits when the board has cookie-cutter experience and opinions. But consensus-building is key to getting anything done. Board members should enter and stay in their roles with an attitude of cooperation.

Out Teach talked about building bridges between board members in its statement: “We have reflected on how we not only prepare first-time board members for success, but equally leverage the experiences and perspectives of directors with more board experience to mentor those with less experience. That type of evolution in engagement is important.”

Employ effective communication skills

Every board member should understand where your role begins and ends, maintaining your own professional boundaries as well as respecting the staff’s boundaries. Being able to offer constructive feedback end engage in consensus-building debate are necessary skills and may take some practice.

Be flexible

New ideas can come from anywhere. Stay open to new solutions, strategies and technologies that can benefit the nonprofit by embracing an attitude of constant learning and collaboration.

Lead by example

Board members set the standard for integrity across the organization. An attitude of gratitude, for example, built into the nonprofit culture creates its own rewards, fostering trust among stakeholder groups as they work together on serving the community.

How board management software supports board members for more impact

Every individual who joins a nonprofit or charity board wants to contribute — you just need the right support. Board management software provides that support. Built for purpose, it has the functionality and features that drive efficiency, productivity and connection among the leadership team and staff.

Consider the benefits of these BoardEffect features for board members:

  • Ability to RSVP to meeting invites and view the online meeting book to prepare for board and other meetings
  • Ability to review materials online, or download or print for offline access
  • Easy annotation (private or shared) of meeting books and documents
  • A dashboard with newsfeed and outstanding tasks, including outstanding RSVPs, surveys and polls and approvals
  • Easy approval with certified digital signatures
  • Multi-device support so you can work from any place, any time
  • Secure workrooms that allow you to collaborate with your fellow board members as needed
  • A searchable document repository that makes finding information simple
  • Granular permissions that ensure everyone has access to what they need

Diligent understands the unique needs of volunteer board members. In BoardEffect, we offer a solution that helps the entire team work better together to serve its community. Let us know how we can help you.

Jennifer Rose Hale

Jennifer Rose Hale has over 20 years' experience with digital and employee communications in for- and nonprofit environments. Her writing and client areas of expertise include education, finance, science and technology.

Back To Top
PHP Code Snippets Powered By :