July 31, 2011

The best board members actually inconvenience themselves when they serve.

The best board members make every effort to attend board meetings. And, of course, the best board members come prepared – having read the materials and even made notes! The best board members bring the materials and are ready for conversation. Conversation! Not advocacy.

Sure, sometimes it’s inconvenient to be a board member. There was that performance you really wanted to attend. But there was a board meeting that evening. Your commitment to the board comes first, before the desire to attend the performance.

Your daughter plays soccer Saturday mornings. You always go. But not on the Saturday of the board retreat. Of course, if you’re on vacation, then you don’t attend the retreat. But please don’t schedule your vacation on the day that the retreat was scheduled – not unless you absolutely have to do so.

I talk with lots of organizations about good governance – and those wonderful board members who expect to inconvenience themselves on the organization’s behalf. I received a rather marvelous email from an organization after just such a talk. They wanted to share with me “the impact I had.” Here’s what I was told:

“We spoke with our board about our meeting with you and how helpful it was. And at the meeting, we learned that our always very committed former president took one of your recommendations literally and missed his 27th wedding anniversary to be present at our meeting. This sets the bar very high for all board members. We wanted to thank you again for inspiring this type of commitment. We keep trying to implement your recommendations and the board is going strong.”

Yes, I talk about board members caring enough to inconvenience themselves. I talk about board members missing birthdays and anniversaries – and celebrating them at another time – because committed professionals fulfill their obligations to the business.

Kudos to this organization. Kudos to that board member. (Who celebrated the anniversary on the weekend, I was told.)

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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