Shift your mindset. Ask yourself this question in every interaction that you have with each board member: is this the way I would treat a major donor?
Here are five ways to show your board members how much you value them:
- Honor their commitment to your mission. Even if you occasionally question their passion for your work, give them the benefit of the doubt. There are plenty of other nonprofit groups that would love to have them on their boards. If they have chosen to serve on your board, it’s pretty safe to assume that at least some part of your organization’s mission appeals to them.
- Honor their time. Board members are volunteers—not paid staff. They weren’t signing on for a job when they agreed to serve on your board. Be respectful of the other things they have going on in their lives. Don’t bother them with the small stuff. Before asking them to make phone calls, fill tables, come to meetings, or sign letters, ask yourself: would I bother the biggest donor in town with this sort of thing?
- Honor their brains. These folks are smart—technically smart, people smart, and financially smart. In some cases, they are just plain wise. Use their time to gather their input on the strategic issues that will help shape your future, not on the smaller tactical details. They will be more likely to offer to help you on the tactical pieces after they have helped to create or shape the larger strategy and direction. (And they will also be more likely to fund it!)
- Honor their contacts. Board members know that you know who they might know. Respect those relationships by asking board members to invite their friends and colleagues to Point of Entry Events at your organization, rather than rushing in to ask their friends for money. Treat your board members as distinguished ambassadors, not as salespeople for your work.
- Honor their privacy. If this were the biggest donor in your community, perhaps you’d use a little more discretion. Leave messages with their assistants—don’t call them at home, text, or e-mail their private address unless they’ve given you explicit permission to do so. Any information you have about their lives that could be regarded as private must remain confidential. Err on the side of discretion and courtesy. Be respectful.
We call it the Benevon Golden Rule: Treat every board member as if they were your most precious major donor!