A board of directors is typically made up of board members who are chosen, ideally speaking, for the expertise and help they can bring to bear to improve the organization. There is hopefully a broad mix of skill sets from individuals of varying backgrounds that will allow for diverse opinions and thoughtful discussions.
Engaging those board members, however, is more than getting them all in the same place at the same time. For quality board member engagement to happen, every board member must have what they perceive is an important function for both the board and the organization. Further to that, there are ways to improve each members’ feelings of membership and inclusion that will hopefully draw them further into the organization’s mission and keep them engaged and playing an active role in its pursuit.
Here are some tips for boosting board member engagement: that is getting (and keeping) your board members interested in what your board is doing and how they can play their part in moving your organization’s mission forward…
New board member orientation is critical for ensuring future board engagement. Help new board members hit the ground running by providing materials such as a board manual, adding the new member to your board management platform, matching each new person with a mentor from the current board, or inviting new members to an organizational event.
RELATED: New Board Member Training: Five Best Practices
In order to engage board members each and every time they get together, in whatever capacity, it is crucial to make sure each board member has a solid grasp of the organization’s big picture. This includes long-range goals. New board member orientations address many of the questions and issues that may arise, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate the mission statement at the start of each meeting.
It seems like common sense, or common courtesy, but a refresher on the basics is never wasted time or effort. For example, one person talks at a time. Especially in meetings. Although passion is most welcome, rudeness is not. Amazingly enough, strong feelings about an issue can cause some people to forget themselves, their sense of appropriateness, and how their message is coming across. They may say things “in the heat of the moment” that they will deeply regret later.
The real work of planning a meeting agenda is done before the meeting even takes place. To improve board member engagement during meetings, it help to prepare and distribute the agenda to everyone well in advance. In an open and supportive atmosphere, the amount of detail presented can be adjusted as the meeting goes along. Feedback in the way of questions, comments, and concerns about the meeting process itself is best kept for the end of the session. For example, perhaps certain reports also need to be distributed for reading ahead of time. How are you getting these meeting documents out to your board members in advance?
How familiar are your board members with one another? Making sure everyone knows names and faces of other members—especially when the full board meets infrequently—can improve the feeling of membership and inclusion while giving a boost to board member engagement. To help with this, Boardable has a board member directory that both board members and liaison staff can update, making it an evergreen directory for better use of everyone’s time. Each entry includes a headshot, contact information, and even links to social media profiles.
This is the single most important (and, sadly, the single most overlooked) aspect of all human relations, let alone board meetings. When people know they’re being listened to, whether or not their observations and recommendations are being acted upon, they are much more likely to engage and really participate in board proceedings. They know they’re part of the proceeding and that they matter.
When everyone knows what’s expected of them, agrees to the time commitment involved, and feels comfortable approaching whoever is in charge of the matter in question, board communication and board member engagement is practically guaranteed.
Interested in how to improve board member engagement through the effective use of technology? Boardable is a board-management software platform that centralizes all communication between you and your board. For example, Boardable is designed to increase engagement at board meetings, with the ability to contribute comments, discussions, documents, or polls for a meeting before, after, or during.