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Board Members Want to Lead—Then Give

Resource Center - Foundation

(March 9, 2010) Board members want to give more than just dollars. They want to give input, guidance and direction. If you don’t let them lead, they won’t want to give.

June Bradham, CFRE, author of The Truth About What Nonprofit Boards Want, told AFP eWire this week that board members are looking to have an enjoyable and rewarding experience. She says ensuring that good experience should be the first goal for their cultivation—not making the “ask” on day one.

Save the Date:
Board Development Webinar by June Bradham

June Bradham will present a two-part webinar on board development as part of the AFP Web/Audioconference Series. She will present Part 1 on April 6 and Part 2 on April 22. Click here to learn more and register.

“So often fundraisers do not give board members enough time and opportunities to engage before asking them for money,” says Bradham. “Board members want to use their skill set, they want to use their brain. Why ask them to support an organization that they have not built a connection with? Let them help make the organization better—let it become their organization. It’s at that point that they are going to be interested in leaving their mark with philanthropy.”

In her book, she lays out nine myths and nine corresponding truths about what board members really want from their board experience. Here’s a hint: Their top answers do not include giving money.

What Boards Want

Board members want to work with people who are as passionate and excited about the organization’s cause as they are. They want to work with a sharp and results-driven CEO. Board members want to know what exactly they are getting into from the beginning. And, of course, they want to have fun.

Myth 7 in Bradham’s book applies specifically to fundraisers: “Great board members = big check writers. That’s all.” The TRUTH, she says, is that board giving is directly correlated to the board experience. That’s why understanding what board members really desire from their time on the board matters. That’s why their feeling of satisfaction about what they can accomplish is so important.

Bradham says we’ve been missing the human element of what is needed for a board to succeed. “The best board member wants things like a human connection and personal enrichment,” she writes. “The best board member wants to use his or her wisdom and skills to help the organization think and then act.”

When a board member gets what he or she wants, the organization benefits, getting what it truly needs—direction and support (including monetary support). As Bradham writes, “Philanthropy is practiced by those who trust the organizations in which they are fully engaged.”

Hear actual board member feedback and get valuable tips on board engagement by registering for June Bradham’s two-part AFP Web/Audioconference session titled: “The Truth About What Nonprofit Boards Want.” She will share stories and insights from her research into nonprofit boards and offer advice on turning your board members into your strongest advocates and supporters. Click here to learn more and register.

June Bradham is president of Corporate DevelopMint, a fundraising and strategic planning consulting firm for nonprofits located in Charleston, S.C.

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