Lose weight on your nonprofit board | npENGAGE

Does your board need to lose weight?

By on Jan 7, 2013


I need to lose 10 pounds.  I always need to lose 10 pounds.  But it’s not life threatening that I can’t fit into the jeans I wore in college.

The weight problem your nonprofit might have could be much more serious – a board member who is not pulling their weight.

You know who I mean – the ones who regularly miss meetings, refuse to make any financial contribution but like having their name on the masthead.  If you don’t go on a strict diet, this dead weight can drown your time and energy.

Here are a diet restrictions that can help you clear out the pantry.

100 pounds = fundraising failure

By far, this is the elephant in the room.  If you talk to virtually any fundraising officer, they will most likely tell you that getting board members involved in fundraising is difficult, if not impossible. Give or get policies are excellent but what happens if they neither give nor get?  Make sure that the consequences are clearly defined but most importantly be prepared to enforce them.

50 pounds = fiscal responsibility

The news was full of examples of nonprofit misconduct last year.  From telemarketing scandals to direct mail debacles, it was clear that ignorance is not bliss.  Every single board member should fully understand the financial situation of the organization as well as the contractual obligations of fundraising.  Board members should be required to review the financial information prepared for each board meeting AND staff should make sure that every board member gets this financial information.

10 pounds = class participation

Board members who come to class unprepared should have to sit in the hall.  I’m only half-kidding.

If board members aren’t engaged, they won’t stay.  Do you have board committees where they are encouraged to strategize and brainstorm?  A lawyer or IT expert?  Give them some assignments and opportunities to learn and present.  A body in motion will stay in motion but if you let them sit around doing nothing, that’s what you get from them…nothing.

40 pounds = minutia

Getting the best out of your board requires them to focus on the bigger pictures.  If you have a board member who is constantly concerned about the day-to-day operations, they take the focus off the mission and vision of the organization.  Providing reports and industry studies will help focus their attention on what you need them to accomplish.

A great board is lean, healthy, and full of energy.  A dead weight board is lifeless and sluggish.  So weigh your options when recruiting, exercise some caution when offering nonprofit board positions, and limit terms so that you have the ability to bring in fresh life as necessary.


Debbi Stanley is manager of the Blackbaud client success team. As certified fundraising executive, Debbi has raised more than $15 million for nonprofit agencies and is a recognized expert in strategic, succession and resource development planning. During her nonprofit career, she served in many positions including development director for health and human services agencies and she was a successful consultant teaching nonprofits approaches to organizational development that properly leverage resources for project sustainability. Her expertise in situational leadership and her knowledge of funding strategies has helped hundreds of nonprofits do more for their communities. An avid fan, Debbi is blessed to have two sons who are great athletes at both forms of football – the American and the International version.

Comments (1)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *