Board Engagement: A board’s added value

Gear shift stick

Used with permission.

I’ve always been fascinated by gears and how they mesh together. When gears engage, things happen!

When you and I engage with work, a cause, a hobby, or a person, things happen too. And when ministry directors engage with their ministry’s cause, not only do things happen for them, but their engagement provides benefits for others as well. By engaging well, they:

  1. motivate staff,
  2. change the board-staff dynamic for the better, and
  3. advance the ministry’s mission.

Motivation

When directors go beyond their board duties and voluntarily do something extra to support the ministry’s work, they send a powerful and encouraging message to staff. Their contribution shows that they are not just interested in governing or being a director, but are committed to the actual mission itself.

Ministry staff are dedicated to the mission, probably having sacrificed more lucrative careers or better working conditions elsewhere for the sake of working on the mission. When board members engage beyond their board work, it affirms the choices made by the staff and sends a powerful message that others are willing to help bear the burden. It is always motivational when you realize you are not struggling alone!

Board-Staff Dynamic

Sometimes an unhealthy “Us vs. Them” attitude can develop between board and staff. The more involved the board is in the operational decisions, and the less that staff (below the senior level) have to interact with the board, the greater the possibility for this problem to develop.

That divisive attitude can be changed to “You and I, we together” when staff members see directors doing things that support their work. Staff will more likely consider directors as partners working in common cause and there will be a greater sense of teamship between board and staff. It’s a much healthier environment for everyone.

Advancing the Mission

Directors want to see the mission advanced as much as staff do, and they may come up with their own ideas about how to help the ministry. As long as they check with staff that their ideas will truly help the ministry and not conflict with or complicate anything that the staff are doing, they can  contribute to advancing the mission, and that makes everyone happy! Directors just need to remember that when they do this, they’ve taken off their board hat and put on their volunteer hat.

Ways to Engage

Here are a few ways that directors can engage with the organization and its mission.

 Fundraising

A director’s own donations to the ministry usually are confidential, but the fact that the ministry’s fundraiser can tell potential major donors that the directors do support the ministry financially is a real help to convincing these large donors to give.

Beyond their own giving, directors can raise resources for the ministry from others. For example, they might find sponsors for events, raise in-kind donations from businesses, or introduce their friends to the ministry as potential donors.

Heather Card (COO at CCCC) is chair of World Relief Canada and an example of how directors can engage in a public fundraising program. When she and her husband Rod celebrated their 25th anniversary, they wanted to include World Relief as part of that celebration. So they decided to raise $25,000 for the ministry by challenging their friends to give and they would match their gifts until the goal was achieved. They approached World Relief and worked together with their development staff to put together a campaign that involved the Card’s social network as well as the ministry’s communication channels. Heather and Rod’s campaign raised $107,000 for a great cause, and World Relief created a really nice “Thank you” video for the donors.

Champion

A champion is someone who acts as an evangelist or an advocate for the ministry. Directors can be ministry champions simply by being alert to appropriate opportunities wherever they are; at church, at work, among friends.

In my book, The Church at Work: A manual for church-agency relations, I wrote about the excellent ministry partnership between Wycliffe Bible Translators and Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa. This great relationship came about because Wycliffe’s board chair attended that church and was able to champion its cause within the church.

Volunteering

There’s nothing like actually doing the ministry’s work to really understand what it does, Volunteering is a form of direct inspection that will better equip directors to discuss the ministry at the board table. It’s one thing to know the facts about a program; it’s quite another to personally experience it and see how people respond to it. This type of engagement also builds relationship between directors and the staff. Again, the director needs to remember that the director hat is off and the volunteer hat is on during the volunteer activities.

At CCCC, we don’t have many volunteer opportunities. So when a director volunteers to come and help with registration at a regional seminar, it gladdens my heart. Their time is precious, and I appreciate when they invest it in a CCCC event.

Representing

In part 3 of this series, I wrote about how directors represent the outside world and their particular constituencies to the organization. But they can also turn around and represent the organization to the outside world and their constituencies. On behalf of the ministry, directors could deliver speeches, attend meetings, visit donors, and so forth.

CCCC is located in a small town in Ontario, and at times we have had directors represent us at events in BC and Alberta when staff were not able to be there.

Prayer

One CCCC board member stands out, and he is so humble I will restrain my inclination to name him, but I know he prays for me by name each and every day, and many other people as well, including some staff at CCCC. He also sends encouraging emails. This is a special way of engaging with the staff on a uniquely Christian level.

Social Media

One easy way directors can engage with the ministry is through social media. We have a director who retweets for us, likes posts on our Facebook page, posts that he’s looking forward to an upcoming board meeting, and generally helps raise our social media profile.

Be creative

How a board member engages with the ministry really depends on their personal make-up. Finding a way to engage can start with asking oneself why they got involved with the ministry in the first place. What has God given them a passion for? What aspects of the ministry do they particularly care about? Be creative and find your own way to engage with the mission.

Why not share your tips for how directors can engage with the ministry?

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