The culture of each organization is different, based on the personalities of the leaders on the board and staff. Even the healthiest of environments are tested during difficult financial circumstances. Members of the Board of Directors often feel helpless — they can’t deliver a big check, they don’t fully understand the business of the organization, and they don’t want to scare off the staff that are holding the place together.
And staff often believe that the board members just show up for board meetings and don’t really understand all the hard work that goes on every day. It means a lot to all the staff when they see a board member is truly interested in the work.
Here are some things that an individual board member can do to make a positive contribution to the organization:
- Check in with the Executive Director. Take her/him out to lunch or for a cup of coffee and just listen. Don’t bring a list of suggestions (often viewed as more work). Here are some great questions to ask: What keeps you up at night? Have you had any wild clients lately? How is your staff holding up? How do you re-charge to avoid burning out? Just providing a space for the ED to share is very helpful and shows that you care about more than the financial report.
- Stop by the office with no other agenda than to say hello. No formal meeting or presentation — simply walk through and let staff members know you appreciate their work and commitment. (If you want to spice it up, give each person a $1 lottery ticket and tell them that if they win big, they can’t quit tomorrow!).
- Drop by the office with a box of bagels or donuts or fruit with some orange juice one morning for the staff. Let them know you appreciate all the great work they do for the community.
- Send an e-mail to the Executive Director complimenting the work of the organization and ask that s/he share it with the rest of the staff.
- If you see the organization mentioned in the news, check out its website, or hear something good from a client, pass it on to the rest of the board and copy the Executive Director.
- Tell three new people about the organization and the great work it does — these people could be neighbors, co-workers, friends from Kiwanis, Rotary, or your faith community. A happy ambassador is great marketing for the organization!
If you try one of these ideas every other month, you will not only feel better about your involvement with the organization, you will make a positive impact on the lifeblood of the organization — the staff.
Let me know how it works for you!