Improve Board Engagement

I recently was honored to be interviewed by The Beacon Podcast host Jeff Jowdy. We discussed nonprofit success and what an ongoing culture of performance looks like. Below are some highlights from our discussion. Click here to listen to the podcast.


  • One of the most important challenges facing nonprofits is lack of board engagement. If the board isn’t engaged, the mission will not achieve its potential. Often, disconnections are based on a mistake; a mistake that the nonprofit makes in its assumptions of board members’ understanding of their roles.
  • Nonprofits must consider rethinking the expectations they have of their boards and their board members in the recruiting process. Failing to follow that line of thinking early is where nonprofit start going off the rails with board member engagement. To do this, nonprofits should match up the ask and the task with the people it’s bringing on board. Often, nonprofits are so eager to fill seats that they don’t do this work. They’re not focused on what it is the board members of being asked to do. And, they’re not focused on reaching out to make sure they’re bringing in the right people so that people and task match up.
  • Nonprofit leaders can help a board member get further engaged by improving communication. Most board members become disengaged because the communication that’s occurring isn’t effective. Again, this must begin in the recruitment process. If leaders are looking for fundraising board members, for example, they need to express those expectations before the first board meeting.
  • Nonprofit leaders need to work to understand their board-members’ strengths. Not every board member is a fundraiser and similarly, not every board member is automatically good at governance. Bottom line: Get the right individual for the right task.
  • Use planning as an engagement tool and be intentional with it. Include the board in the development of the plan and then put it into action in a step-wise fashion; don’t place it on a shelf and forget about it.
  • Use meetings as an engagement tool as well. Structure meetings so they are engagement-driven, not simply reports and rubber stamping. Allow for feedback from board members and listen to their opinions

In your experience, what are the essential elements of nonprofit success? Share your thoughts below.


To hear the entire podcast and learn more about how Lighthouse Counsel partners with respected nonprofits to develop and implement strategies that increase mission awareness, organizational effectiveness and philanthropic support, visit LighthouseCounsel.com.

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