Don’t take board relationships for granted

June 21, 2012

Filed under: Board Development — jonathanpoisner @ 9:24 am

It’s easy for Executive Directors to take their board for granted when it comes to their time.

You already get their input at board meetings and through formal processes.

They should be 100% behind the organization already — that’s their role after all.

The Executive Director should be able to focus on building relationships with other people.

Yet, board members are people.  And people relate to other people.

The reality is that too many Executive Directors I talk to don’t recognize the importance of building and maintaining strong personal relationships with individual board members.

Stronger relationships will leave board members more motivated to help you (e.g. raise money), more willing to engage in deeper level strategic conversations, and more likely to see themselves as part of a team.

How do you generate stronger relationships in practice?

Separate from board meetings, you should get to know your board members.   As a general rule of thumb, I recommend meeting with every single board member every 12-18 months over coffee or a meal.

Put this in your work plan.  Work it just as you would a list of major donors.

There should be no agenda at these meetings.  Your top goal should be to get to know them and to have them get to know you.  Of course, naturally in the conversation you will get the chance to talk about how things are going organizationally.  I found these informal check-ins were often when the most useful strategic ideas emerged.

If you get to the point where you see board members truly as friends, don’t hesitate to invite them to other social gatherings you host, or to attend theirs if invited.

Of course, board relationships also run board member to board member.  It’s a good idea if you offer board members an annual opportunity to do something together socially.  This could be an organizational holiday party for board and staff, a summer barbeque, or a dozen other options.

Of course, for boards that are more far-flung (e.g. national or even spread out within a single state or region), doing social activities is more challenging.  It probably can only realistically take place in the evening before or after an in-person board meeting.

But under any scenario — Executive Directors should consciously think about how to build better personal relationships with board members and ways for board members to get to know each other.

Be Sociable, Share!

1 Comment »

  1. On my facebook page, Kimberly Culbertson made a great comment — relationships run both directions. So board members — don’t wait for the Executive Director to initiate this. Take them out to lunch or for a drink!

    Comment by jonathanpoisner — June 21, 2012 @ 9:42 am

Leave a comment

Content © Copyright 2010-2013 • Jonathan Poisner Strategic Consulting LLC. All rights reserved.