Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
2 min Read
June 20, 2024

Engaging your board for communications projects

Your board is one of your nonprofit organization’s strongest assets. To create buy-in, long-term commitment, and successful results, keep your board involved throughout your branding, communications, fundraising, and marketing projects. 

People on nonprofit boards are deeply committed to causes and missions, and in some cases, represent the lived experiences of the communities you work with. Board members are some of your strongest advocates and ambassadors, helping you fundraise, strategize, network, and elevate your organization. They may also hire and manage the long-term leadership of your organization. So it makes sense to plan for board engagement if you embark on a major project such as rebranding your organization, raising funds for your endowment or new building, evolving your mission statement, and more. 

Boards are as unique as their organizations. Some boards are composed of experts on an issue area like finance, fundraising, or communications, representatives of key constituencies, former staff members, and organizational founders–and in some cases, one person holds all of these identities.

So it makes sense to determine your board’s project engagement strategy based on your board’s identity, expertise, and tenure. Here are eight questions to help identify your board’s culture:

  • What is the capacity of your board? Is your board spread out across various projects and committees or is this the main focus of your board?
  • Are there other major projects on the horizon? 
  • What are the goals of the leadership development of your board? Is there a leadership change in the board or staff? 
  • Will your board need to approve a decision or just be consulted? 
  • When will your board be available for input? 
  • Which members of the board can serve as your internal champion?  Are there members of your board that don’t fully support the project? 
  • How does your board communicate? Is it better to share written content in advance, circulate recordings, work asynchronously, or meet in-person or via Zoom? 
  • What are the power dynamics at play? Is your board diverse in race, class, and/or gender identity? What practices does your board have for addressing differences in opinion? Are differences of opinion and background cultivated or silenced? 

There are no right or wrong answers to the questions above. Use these questions to paint a broader picture of your board and to inform a project engagement strategy. As you answer these questions, map out an approach that fits your project and decide when and how to best engage your board. 

As part of analyzing your board, set your board project engagement goal.  A great tool to help you create a goal that sticks is the SMARTIE framework which brings equity and inclusion into goal setting. Setting a goal will help you focus on how/when board engagement will be the most effective and avoid the overly cautious practice of checking in with the board so often that we fatigue the members. A SMARTIE board engagement goal will clarify your approach and keep your project running smoothly and effectively. 

Assessing your board is a practice that you can follow to create an engagement strategy that fits your unique board needs and assets. It will also give you a tool to measure the success of your board engagement on various projects.