Association staff are on the front lines of daily operations, working hard to deliver the best possible experience to members. They not only have visibility into what’s going on but have a better understanding of why. Why aren’t the membership numbers growing? What activities and programs are members participating in – and which aren’t hitting the mark? How did that win-back email you sent out last month work? Did any lapsed members renew?
In addition to helping ensure the organization is making informed decisions, this perspective also provides unparalleled insight into opportunities for improvement. If you know what’s working and what’s not, you know how to fix it. You’ve probably spent some time exploring solutions, perhaps participating in webinars or downloading buying guides designed to ensure that you’re checking all the boxes.
You know what you’d like to change, why and how it will help propel the success of your organization forward but there’s a problem – you’re not writing the check.
Assuming the changes you’d like to introduce requires funding, it’s more likely than not that you’ll have to ask for budget. Perhaps it’s been planned for, perhaps it’s unexpected but in either scenario, you need to secure approval before moving forward. In some organizations executives on the leadership team have purchase authority but in others, you’ll need to go before the board.
And, in my years of experience working with nonprofits, I have yet to meet anyone who relishes presenting a budget ask to their board.
The reality is that your board is made up of people, just like you and me. They may wield a lot of power within your association, but they’re busy people – often with families and careers of their own – who are working with your organization because they believe in what you do. They bring to their role:
- The duty of care: They are thoughtful about making good decisions on behalf of the organization.
- The duty of loyalty: They are committed to the organization.
- The duty of obedience: They act in a manner consistent with the organization’s mission.
Great news, but you know what they say about good intentions. Even if a board member is committed to making the best possible decisions on behalf of your association, there’s often a mismatch between the realities of what you need and the role your board thinks they’re there to play.
Surprisingly, according to a 2017 George Mason University survey, nearly a third (31 percent) of incoming association and nonprofit board members were not oriented in their organization’s strategic plan. Recent participants in ASAE’s Associations Innovate: The Journey from Intent to Action study reported moderate levels of board engagement in creating the innovation agenda, with ratings averaging 3.33 on a scale of one to five.
Boards have the capacity to not just work with staff on the details or pet programs but to provide a perspective that will help drive your organization forward. It’s probably part of why they’re on your board. It helps them stay engaged. And gaining support from your board can be imperative as you look to support new projects and investments that will make your organization better – for your staff and for your members.
Whether you’re wanting to build out a new program, secure additional funding or maybe even eliminate projects that are currently draining staff time and money—getting your board on board is critical.
Check out this free webinar where we explored this topic in greater detail.