8 Ways to Keep Former Nonprofit Board Members Engaged
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By Diane Remin
Your former board members are an untapped treasure trove. Just think of all they've done for your nonprofit over the years!
They likely completed at least one or more board terms. That's as many as six years—or perhaps even more depending on the by-laws. At the very least, they've invested hours in meetings. If they served as an Officer or on a Strategic Planning or Campaign Committee, their time commitment escalated accordingly.
Their committee service has led to a deep understanding of at least one aspect of the organization. They've heard compelling nonprofit stories that warmed their hearts. They've also, hopefully with pleasure, made this nonprofit one of their philanthropic priorities during their board term—perhaps even including a gift in their wills.
They've developed comradery, if not friendship, with their board colleagues. If their board service has gone well, the organization now has a special place in their heart.
And then, they're gone. And the music stops. They receive nary a word beyond perfunctory e-newsletters and impersonal annual appeals. Even though they still believe in the mission, time passes and the lights dim. They've given so much to your organization! Stop neglecting them and start inviting them to get engaged with your mission in a new way.
Eight ways to keep former board members engaged
For those board members for whom continued engagement makes sense, think of them as an alumni group and invite them to:
- Tour new facilities, meet new staff, and learn about new programs.
- Stay informed through quarterly 30-minute impact reports given by someone on your team.
- Be a member of a "Former Board Member Kitchen Cabinet" that supports the Board Chair and/or Executive Director.
- Serve as a non-voting member of a standing committee, be it Finance or your board-level Donor Thank You Committee. Your organization may not have such a committee yet—but it should. Just examine your donor retention rates.
- Serve on an ad hoc committee such as Strategic Planning.
- Attend an annual house party organized by a former board member.
- Ask fellow former board members for their annual gift.
- Participate in individual donor asks with a staff member.
Former board members are among your most loyal ambassadors and knowledgeable resources. Keep the music playing and keep them engaged!