September 25, 2017
 
Boost Morale and Reconnect Boards with Their Passion

By Gail Perry

Gail Perry
For board members liable to lose heart after bad news or a long stretch of discouraging financials, try an engaging exercise that reconnects them with the reason they are taking the time out of their busy lives to serve on the board.

This exercise wakes everybody up; gets them talking, smiling, and enjoying themselves; and gives them their own chance to speak, in addition to fanning the flames of their energy and passion.

It’s very easy, but it requires a willingness to try something new on your board’s part.

It focuses on a single simple question: “Why do you care about our organization?” It’s a pretty unusual question because board members don’t often get a chance to talk about why they care; they are too busy doing business and being efficient.

In the interest of using their time wisely, we too often just don’t take the time to go deeper and touch their hearts or hear their story. We’re responsible if they are disengaged or bored, because we are the ones who make the agendas and decide how they are going to use their time with us.

But you won’t believe what happens when you just ask this question! This is the conversation that can reignite their energy and passion. It helps them get back in touch with that deep caring in their hearts for your cause.

This is the core reason why they are with you, and why they are willing to share their precious spare time on your cause instead of something else.

So that no one is self-conscious or feels put on the spot, this is a “mingle exercise” in which board members mingle around the room and share their own perspective with four or five different people.

Here’s how to set this exercise up.

  1. Ask your board members what they would say to someone who asked them why they cared enough to serve on this board. If they ran into someone at work or socially, what would they say?
 (You might also ask them, “What legacy do you want to leave from serving on the board?” or perhaps “What speaks to you personally about the good work we do in the world?”)

  2. Give them a few moments to write some notes to themselves. What would they really say if given the chance?

  3. Then tell them that in just a minute we will ask everyone in the room to share these thoughts with FOUR other board members.

  4. Explain the exercise: “Find a partner, introduce yourself to them in case they may not know you well, and then share your story. Each person should take just about 30 seconds. When you finish with your partner, then go find another partner and chat with them.”

  5. Then launch them: “Everybody up!” Have them stand up, go around the room, and share their perspective briefly with four or five other board members, one after the other.
It’s great to debrief when everyone is finished. Ask everybody first what their experience was. What were they saying? Was it easy? Was it even fun? What did you learn from other board members?

When they do the mingle exercise, they will find themselves saying over and over why they really care about the organization and what is deeply meaningful to them about your mission.

It evokes exactly what they should be saying to their friends and acquaintances: something personal and from the heart. And the exercise reinforces their message because they repeat it again and again.

This mingle exercise has a very special added benefit: it is also a “re-kindling” conversation. As your board member talks repeatedly about what sparks his enthusiasm or interest in your organization’s work, he is re-igniting his own passion as he speaks. He is reminding himself about the difference you make and why it is personally important to him.

Remember, most board members don’t know what to say about your organization! This exercise gives them low-key, but most valuable, practice talking about your cause, in a natural and spontaneous way.

They also learn from other board members, they get great energy from the other folks in the room, and they enjoy themselves. Board members love to talk to each other and they rarely get the chance.

It’s a refreshing shift away from boring board meetings and the best morale booster I’ve ever seen. When they are re-inspired by their own passion for the cause, board members are now ready to go to work with vigor – and commitment.

If you do this before a meeting, you’ll find that it’s one of the best meetings you’ve ever had with this group.

Reprinted from Gail Perry’s newsletter, “Fired Up Fundraising.” Gail can be reached at GP@GailPerry.com or 919-821-3050.

June 2011

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