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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >