a view from the board side “Energizing your board members”

By Dick  Hagerty, Advisory board member

In early July a newly commissioned friend of mine, Lt. Sid Salcido, called me asking for help. His first day at his new post he met informally with his board; all 11 members were present. Then he received the stunning news that nine had been inducted at the previous meeting.

“Can you come up and meet with them right away?” was his plea.

Yes, I will come, but first he needs to spend a few months with them, giving them a clear view of who we—The Salvation Army— are, and of all the dimensions that we encompass. He needs to get them on committees, plugged into programs, and actively meeting as a new team. Only then will the details of organization, policy and program really matter to these folks.

Nothing is more discouraging than to sit in a board meeting where only a handful of members are attending and participating. Having staff outnumber board members is no way to run an organization; yet that often becomes reality.

How do we keep our board and council members energized, excited and involved as participants in our activities and our meetings?

This question is asked frequently, and while there are no easy answers, I believe it starts right at the beginning with the introduction and induction. Assignment to an active committee must follow immediately.

We recently changed our local rules concerning the process of bringing a new member onto the board. Prior to being voted on, the prospect must attend a community awareness meeting that we hold monthly—the leadership luncheon—where we give community leaders a clear and detailed view of who we are and how we serve the community at large. The event includes brief videos, reports and a tour of the facilities. This format not only gives an overview of our function, but also allows a prospective member to see in some detail what we are about.

The prospective candidate then must serve on an active committee for a minimum of six months. Since most of our committees meet monthly, and some nearly every week, we will get a very real view of the dedication, effectiveness and commitmentment to attendance that this person brings to the tasks at hand.

Here are some specific suggestions that may help keep up interest and attendance:

•Keep accurate attendance records of all board and committee meetings.

•Publish these records at mid-year and again at year-end so that each member sees his

or  her level of participation. The entire board also sees the attendance of each of

their   fellow members—a bit of peer pressure never hurts.

•Use these records when the nominating committee meets in the fall to determine

whether  or not to renew a member for another term.

•Email, call or mail out clear invitations and reminders prior to each board and

committee meeting.

•Make sure that the meetings are well organized, start and end on time, and leave all

those who attended feeling that positive things were accomplished.

•While finance is critical for board attention, too many boards focus on this to the

point that strategic planning and reporting on results are overlooked. Be sure your

board is well informed on all aspects of the local work and results.

•Pay special attention to keeping the new member feeling involved, informed and needed.

•Ask an active board member to team up with new or lagging member, calling to remind

that person of meetings, and otherwise making the member feel wanted and needed.

A week later my young officer friend called me right after his first official full board meeting—he was elated. He said that he followed my coaching and encouragement and that the meeting was filled with good cheer and anticipation. Plus, they will immediately begin forming and meeting as an executive committee.  After a couple more meetings, they will be ready for a full mentoring time where we will begin to build them into an active and involved team.

Contact Dick at


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