Board members join nonprofit boards for various reasons. From looking to network with like-minded professionals, to wanting to give back to the community, nonprofits will welcome board members of various professions, ages, backgrounds, and more. All of these different board member types, however, have one thing in common: they must be emotionally connected with each other and with the mission. While this sounds like a straightforward concept, creating this emotional bridge isn’t always easy – but it IS always rewarding. If you need to connect board members to your mission, consider the following.
Over the years I’ve found that there is a clear difference between knowing what an organization does and feeling connected to this mission. If you’re connected to something, you’re more likely to put a higher level of effort into the decision making and output. Connecting emotionally to an organization you’re working with in any capacity, but especially if you’re a nonprofit, will change the way you work and engage with those around you. Encouraging board members to connect with your nonprofit opens their eyes to the service part of what you do every day, which goes above and beyond the business aspects of your organization.
For nonprofit board members, breaking through to this feeling helps people operate more effectively. It’s much easier to make the effort, to show up for meetings, and to make critical decisions when you feel personally connected to the goals you’re working towards. This personal connection also helps smooth out any friction board members may feel with each other, the responsibilities of the position, or the nonprofit organization as a whole because it helps highlight the fact that everyone is working towards the same end goal.
This feeling of connection between a board member and a nonprofit is personally important to me because I have been put in positions where I have been tested on this “connection.” I joined a board a few months ago, and within a week of joining, every board member resigned. I hadn’t even attended a single board meeting and started to waver on my decision to stay because I hadn’t had the chance to experience what the nonprofit was doing with the community. However, I was able to attend a seminar with the executive director of the organization and was really moved by the experience and the conversation. Seeing the connection between the nonprofit team and the people they served in the community showcased the connection between the different stakeholders involved. After the meeting, I realized that this nonprofit existed for a reason and I worked to revamp the board from the ground up, becoming the board chair in the process.
When information came out a few months later about misconduct in the leadership, it caused a moment of reflection for me. But, because I am so confident in the importance and value of the organization, and because I now have a true personal connection with what we are doing for the community, I was able to stick with the organization and see it through the ups and downs. This is the difference between feeling connected to an organization, and simply knowing two or three people on the board who may or may not be around long-term.
Another personal example is with an organization here in Indianapolis, The Speak Easy (pictured above). I helped co-found the organization and served on its board for a number of years (first photo). I can honestly say that it has been incredible to watch the space grow from an idea to a full-fledged operation. Now, when I go into visit and see the activity that’s going on and talk to the people working in the space, I truly feel that initial connection all over again. Even though I’m not on the board anymore, I still feel so proud when people come up and tell me what The Speak Easy means to them.
At the end of the day, if you feel like the work you’re doing is changing someone’s life, then it makes the work itself feel effortless. This is just how human beings are built. When we feel someone else is being lifted up or given an opportunity or healed, we become recharged and invigorated. It is possible for board members to feel connected to the nonprofits they serve, but it can take time and an “ah-ha moment” to get there.
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