Engaging Your Board in Volunteerism: Top Benefits and Tips

Your organization’s board members complete necessary tasks and make decisions that help keep your organization running smoothly. They set goals and track progress, manage financial responsibilities, support initiatives, and more.

As an executive director or board chair at a mission-driven organization, it’s your job to ensure that your organization’s board stays on task and continuously makes progress toward your organization’s goals. One of the ways you likely fulfill your role is by pursuing various board engagement activities to keep your board active and productive.

What’s one of the best ways to engage your board while adding value to your organization? Involving your board members in volunteering!

Even though your board members are likely serving in their roles on a volunteer, unpaid basis, they may have varying levels of engagement with your organization’s overall volunteer program. By encouraging board members to get involved in your organization’s volunteer activities, you can create powerful connections that offer benefits to both board members and your organization as a whole.

In this guide, we’ll explore those benefits and offer a few tips for getting your board members on board with volunteering. Let’s dive in!

Benefits of Engaging Your Nonprofit Board in Volunteering

Your board members probably have varying degrees of involvement with your volunteer program. Some may be heavily involved, some may have volunteered once or twice to support your mission, and others may have never participated in a volunteer opportunity.

By engaging your board members in volunteerism, you can:

Give your board members hands-on experience with your mission.

Whether your organization focuses on building houses for local families, cooking food for the elderly, or collecting books for an afterschool children’s program, your volunteer opportunities all probably involve a hands-on element.

For your board members who have never volunteered, engaging in an opportunity can provide first-hand insight into what your organization’s mission looks like in action. This experience can give board members a deeper connection to your cause and remind them of why they decided to become board members in the first place.

Volunteering can also provide board members with an inside look at your organization’s challenges and opportunities. They’ll be able to see up close what your community’s needs are and where your organization fits in to fill those needs. This can provide board members with better context for where there’s room to grow.

Boost board engagement.

Boardable’s nonprofit management strategies post points out that it’s easy for board members to lose interest in their duties if they’re only invited to board meetings. You can boost board engagement by asking members to get involved in volunteer activities because many of these opportunities are inherently social.

Board members have an opportunity to get to know one another and interact outside of the board room or Zoom chat room. They can also interact with other leaders within your organization such as your volunteer coordinator.

Forming personal relationships and even strong friendships can help board members work better together in the boardroom and understand one another on a deeper level.

Give your volunteer program a boost.

Lastly, involving your board members in volunteering has the added benefit of giving your volunteer program a boost. According to Double the Donation’s nonprofit statistics page, volunteer work in the U.S. is valued at about $175 billion annually. Your organization can reap some of this value and support your paid staff by bringing on board member volunteers to help out.

Your volunteer coordinator is consistently on the lookout for volunteer recruitment opportunities, and your board members may represent an untapped audience to recruit. Plus, when board members discuss their positive volunteer experience with their family members, friends, colleagues, and neighbors, they may even recruit a wider audience of new volunteers.

These benefits combine to help you build a more sustainable, productive board with members that work well together. Volunteering is an inherently rewarding activity that can leave board members feeling refreshed and energized to continue fulfilling their duties.

Tips for Involving Your Board in Volunteer Opportunities

Now that you understand the benefits of including your board members in volunteer opportunities, you’re probably looking for tips for how to do so.

When planning volunteer opportunities for board members, it’s important to consider members’ time and interests. Doing so allows you to gain buy-in and increase turnout at the opportunity. Here are a few tips to help you engage your board members:

Offer shorter/flexible opportunities.

Your board members probably have full-time jobs or other responsibilities that prevent them from spending a full day volunteering. Be mindful of board members’ time limits by providing shorter or more flexible volunteer opportunities.

For instance, you can offer an experience with hour-long shifts throughout the day so board members can pop in whenever is convenient. Or, you can send out a survey ahead of the volunteer opportunity to assess what the best day is for the majority of board members.

Schedule opportunities on the same day as your board meetings.

To make it even more convenient for board members to volunteer, you can plan them on the same days as your board meetings. The volunteer project can take place before or after the meeting in the same area. This way, board members can just make one trip, and they’re likely already available since they’ve blocked off time to attend board meetings.

Boost participation by offering incentives.

Although your board members already have an affinity for your mission and a willingness to help out, it never hurts to incorporate incentives into your volunteer opportunities. For example, you can create free t-shirts to commemorate the experience, offer attendees a gift card, or take participants out for a free dinner afterward.

Incentives like these might encourage board members who were on the fence to participate.

Thank board members for their time and effort.

Don’t assume your board members know how grateful your organization is for their time and effort. Just like with any volunteer, be sure to thank your board members after participating.

You can leverage donor appreciation letter templates that can easily be adapted into thank-you notes to your board members. You can send your thank-you messages in an email or handwritten letters. Either way, ensure that the notes are:

  1. Personalized. Include each participant’s name in the greeting of the letter. Adding board members’ names is very easy since you already know all of them, and it makes each participant feel recognized as an individual.
  2. Specific. Remind participants of the specific impact that their volunteer work had on your organization and how the project fits into your organization’s larger mission. This can give board members more talking points for when they share about their volunteer experience and remind them of the importance of their work.

Use your thank-you messages to summarize everything board members accomplished throughout the volunteer experience. You can demonstrate how much your organization values its board members and appreciates their continued support for all elements of your mission.

Ask for feedback after the opportunity.

Just as you would for any volunteer opportunity, you should ask your participating board members for feedback after they’ve completed the project or task. Board members will likely have valuable insights to share since they’re involved in multiple aspects of your organization.

Board members have more context than the average volunteer about what your volunteer program is meant to accomplish and the challenges the program faces. For instance, your board members will have detailed information about your organization’s budget. They’ll be able to see your volunteer program budget in action and assess its effectiveness up close.

Reference Galaxy Digital’s guide to volunteer surveys to help come up with questions to ask. These questions fall into categories such as:

  • Volunteer satisfaction: You can ask board members to rate the experience, if they’d recommend the opportunity to a friend or family member, and how likely they are to volunteer again.

  • Volunteer engagement: Inquire about whether board members felt the experience was impactful or significant, whether they identified any additional community needs your organization might be able to address, or how your organization can do a better job at supporting volunteers.

Be sure also to request feedback at your next board meeting so members can speak about the experience more freely. Incorporate their comments and suggestions in future volunteer opportunities to continuously improve your offerings.

Encourage your board members to promote your volunteer program.

If your board members express an overall positive response after volunteering, ask if they would share their experience and encourage their family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances to get involved.

Board members at mission-driven organizations are typically well-connected within the community, so their recommendations probably hold a lot of sway. Plus, they’ll be able to share their first-hand experience with volunteering, which is always more powerful than sharing generic talking points.

With these tips in your pocket, you should be able to craft effective board member volunteer opportunities that strengthen your organization’s ties with its board members and lead to insightful feedback.

Even though participating in your volunteer program may not be a requirement for board members, it can be an extremely valuable experience for members and your organization as a whole. You can even consider adding volunteer opportunities to your board member onboarding process to solidify volunteerism as a guiding priority for your organization.

Addison Waters wrote this article on improving board engagement with volunteerism. Author: Addison Waters

Addison Waters is a Content Writer at Galaxy Digital, the best volunteer management software for managing, tracking, and engaging volunteerism. Addison holds a Master of Creative Writing from Durham University. Say hi on LinkedIn!


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