Sustain the positive energy of love and connection
Are you throwing your former board members out like yesterday’s trash? You are if you don’t continue to build relationships with them and let them know how special they are.
Every single communication with a former board member should let them know you know who they are. One of the foundations of Penelope Burk’s groundbreaking work in Donor-Centered Fundraising is the finding donors want one thing first and foremost: “Show me that you know me.”
If you treat former board members like they’re toast, don’t be surprised when they start sending you little bread crumbs instead of the whole slice – or loaf – they once sent. People want to be appreciated. It’s just human nature.
Stop blaming board members for stopping loving you. Instead, focus on not stopping to love them!
8 Strategies to Build a Former Board Member Love and Loyalty Strategy
Former board should be one of your top segments for cultivation! They have a deep understanding of your vision, mission and values. For years, they made your nonprofit one of their top philanthropies. They may even have included you in their estate planning!
Former board have numerous connections to your cause; don’t lose them! They may have relationships with staff or even beneficiaries. They also have connections with each other. At one point you were part of their identity and family. You likely have a special place in their heart.
Don’t stop making beautiful music together! Continue to treat them personally, unless they specifically ask you to stop. Don’t simply relegate them to your impersonal e-news mailings or mass annual appeals. Treat them like major donors and develop a love and loyalty strategy that invites them to stay engaged with you, albeit in a new way.
1. Create an ad hoc “Champions” Group
This can be comprised of former board and others (consider former staff too) who care deeply about your organization and still want to serve as ambassadors, advocates and even askers. Develop a job description that makes their role and responsibilities clear, and assign the job of engaging with them to someone on staff. Doing something as simple as convening them twice a year (even virtually) to offer advice and feedback can go a long way towards keeping them connected. Asking them to convene socially is good too, but most people feel better if they feel useful. So give them a job!
2. Invite them to Tour
This can be done on site or virtually. It’s an opportunity to keep up-to-date, meet new staff, and hear new stories of impact. It makes former board members feel good to know they laid the groundwork for all the wonderful outcomes that continue.
3. Offer Town Hall Updates
These can be folded into updates you already offer to special segments of your donor base (e.g., major donors; monthly donors; active volunteers) and are a way to show former board they’re still important to you. Once a quarter is a good frequency.
4. Invite them to Join a Committee
I’m a firm believer in inviting non-board members to join committees. When you do this with major donors and active volunteers it serves as an onboarding ramp to board service. When you do it with former board and staff, it assures you never lose their support.
5. Invite them to Join an Ad Hoc Group
In the life time of your nonprofit, there are many opportunities to form ad hoc advisory bodies. It may be when you’re considering a merger… beginning a strategic planning process… considering a capital or endowment campaign… entering into a rebranding initiative… and so forth. Why not invite former board, who know a lot about you, to join?
6. Invite them to an Annual Board Appreciation Party
When folks have been treated as members of your family, it can feel bad to be suddenly cast aside. Show them you’ll never do this by routinely including them in at least one purely social celebration.
7. Ask Personally for an Annual Gift
You used to ask them personally, right? This probably worked pretty well. If all of a sudden you start sending only a letter (and heaven forbid it doesn’t even include a personal note from the E.D. or board president), what are they going to think about how you feel about them? Your not treating them special will likely lead to a not-so-special gift.
8. Ask for Continued Fundraising Help
Especially if they were helpful with this while on the board, see if they’re willing to continue. Maybe they won’t want to ask, but perhaps they’ll be willing to accompany you or another board member to play the role of advocate. Giving testimonial is one of the most powerful things anyone can do, and it’s not a heavy lift. It will make them feel connected, appreciated and useful.
It does not have to be a foregone conclusion that former board members fall by the wayside. It will, however, become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you virtually ignore them once their board service has ended.
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Photo by Kristina Litvjak on Unsplash