Monday, July 23 , 2018, 9:06 am | Fair 74º

 
 
 
 

Cynder Sinclair: Former Board Members — Your Nonprofit’s Hidden Jewels

Have you ever felt dropped like hot potato by a nonprofit you love, after faithfully serving on their board of directors for several years? You were probably a loyal donor, too — probably still are.

After serving three two-year terms, you felt very connected to the mission. You still care deeply. But after finishing your terms, receiving a nice plaque and listening to sweet accolades, you haven’t heard a peep from them except the newsletter or event invitations they send to all donors.

You likely feel abandoned by your beloved organization and wonder why they don’t seem to care about you anymore.

It happens far too frequently.

This is a common story among nonprofit boards. I’ve experienced it myself as a past board member. I truly believe the leaders are so focused on keeping their organization stabilized and moving forward that they don’t realize past board members, at least the good ones, are like diamonds in their own backyard.

As a current board member of your favorite nonprofit, you can help your board create a succession plan that includes keeping former board members close. Use these excellent suggestions from the fundraising expert, Simone Joyaux, to keep these folks connected to your mission. You and your board may think of even more ways to include past board members.

» Invite former board members to serve on committees. These individuals can still offer important perspective and expertise.

» With your donor newsletter, include a cover letter for former board members. If you’re using best practice with your donor newsletter, you’re sending it in an envelope, not as a self-mailer, so include a letter addressed to former board members.

It’s not a solicitation letter. It’s just a “hello” and a “thanks again for serving on our board.” This personal note accompanying the newsletter reminds me that you remember me. I feel honored.

» When sending out a program or special event invitation, stick in a little note for former board members. Same reasoning as above.

» At events, whether program for fundraising or cultivation, how about having “former board member” nametags? (I’d have another that says “donor,” too.) And for those who are donors and former board members, include both. Of course, make sure your current board members have a nametag, too. (Remember, nametags are icebreakers, conversation starters and comfort builders.)

» Invite former board members to host cultivation gatherings in their homes to introduce your organization to those who might be interested. Invite former board members to co-host a cultivation gathering with a current board member.

» Invite former board members — along with loyal donors — to an insider update. A cup of coffee, a muffin and an update about how we’re spending your money…the organization’s recent impact.

» Maybe send out an annual update letter to all former board members. No request. Just an update. After all, former board members should certainly be concerned a special group.

» If you solicit former board members through direct mail, how about making sure that the letter mentions their former position as a board member…a letter specially written for former board members?

» Organize an annual cultivation gathering for former board members only. Or, invite former board members to help you conduct your personal face-to-face solicitation campaign each year.

» Why not have current board members make thank-you calls for gifts made by former board members?

» Create an ambassadors corps. You invite your most loyal donors to join. You invite former board members who are still donors to join. You even invite some of your major gift donors to join. Ambassadors are invited to make thank-you calls to donors. Ambassadors are invited to an annual gathering for a personal update. What else could you do with ambassadors?

Finding Diamonds

Nonprofits are always looking for more individuals to support their work, financially and otherwise. Most former board members are jewels you don’t want to cast aside or ignore.

These folks have demonstrated their passion for the mission and they are well equipped to continue their good work for your cause, just in a different capacity.

Find ways to help them stay engaged. Be creative. Ask them how they would like to continue to act as an ambassador for your organization.

Most importantly, let them know how much you appreciate their service and commitment. I guarantee they will continue to shine a bright light on your good work.

— Dr. Cynder Sinclair is a consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She has been successfully leading nonprofits for 30 years and holds a doctorate in organizational management. To read her blog, click here. To read her previous articles, click here. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are her own.

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