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Assessing Board Engagement: Ten Tough Questions

Leaning Too Heavily on Your Board

This week’s feature is an excerpt from The Benevon Model for Sustainable Funding: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting it Right, Second Edition. For more information and to buy the book, visit our store.

How does your board stack up? Here is a series of questions that will get to the truth about how you are doing at involving your board. Write down your answers to each question below.

  1. When it comes to fundraising, what are your biggest concerns about your board? What more would you like your board members to be doing? What would it take for your board to more closely resemble your image of the “ideal” board?
  2. What percentage of your total board members would you rate as truly passionate about your mission? Do the math. The sooner you tell the truth about this percentage, the sooner you can get to work.
  3. What percentage of your total board members understand the Benevon Model and are eager to participate in its implementation (not just how many have heard of the model or nod their heads pleasantly when you discuss Point of Entry Events and the Ask Event)? Rather, what percentage truly understand the power of the Benevon Model to build long-term sustainable funding, which is something most board members would love to leave as a legacy?
  4. What percentage of total board members have attended your organization’s Point of Entry Event? Even if board members think they know everything there is to know about your organization, they will learn something new and personally experience the power of your mission. Tell them in advance that you need their advice and feedback.
  5. What percentage of your board members have invited others to attend Point of Entry Events? Some groups make this a standard part of board participation, going so far as to have board members sign an agreement to participate at a certain level, for instance, to attend at least one Point of Entry Event per year, or to have a minimum number of guests throughout the year, or to become an official Ambassador, filling one Point of Entry with at least ten guests.
  6. What percentage of your board members have been involved in thanking donors? What have they said about it afterwards? Do you give them an opportunity to share these experiences at board meetings?
  7. What percentage of your board members give money to the organization, personally? Your goal here should be 100% participation with no minimum dollar requirement.
  8. Have you completed a Cultivation Interview with each board member once a year? These simple Cultivation Interview Questions (Chapter 9) are very powerful.‌‌

    ‌If your CEO and board chair were to do an annual Cultivation Interview with each of your board members, that would send a message that each board member is very important to your organization. Cultivation Interviews give your board members an opportunity to talk to you and, even more importantly, give you an opportunity to listen to them, which again sends the message that you value them.‌‌

    ‌‌‌Furthermore, if you pay close attention to what they are telling you in these annual interviews, you will see what has changed in their life circumstances and priorities in the past year, what lights them up most about your work, and how you can involve them in precisely those areas, just as you would cultivate a major donor.
  9. What is your plan to increase or retread your board members’ passion?‌‌‌‌

    ‌This new level of engagement for each board member isn’t going to happen automatically. It takes someone to drive it, step by step. Just as you would develop a cultivation plan for each major donor, you need a similar step-by-step plan for cultivating each board member.‌‌‌‌

    ‌This will be a series of personalized contacts, each focusing on the board member’s particular area of interest, which you will know well. Each subsequent contact is driven by the board member’s request during the prior contact.
  10. Do you have an annual board fundraising retreat where each board member signs an annual board agreement, outlining the options and requirements for participation?