The Rule of Thirds

Have you heard about the “Rule of Thirds” when it comes to your board of directors? Let’s see if it applies to your board….

Based on this rule, 1/3 of your board members will be amazing and go above and beyond for you as the Executive Director and the mission of your organization. They show up regularly to meetings, actively participate on committees and help you with fundraising efforts (as they should!) without being asked. They support you and are there when you need them, sometimes just to be a sounding board or give advice when solicited. They don’t even need to be asked or reminded to give a meaningful gift to the organization each year because they do it automatically. And they know and adhere to the boundaries of what their responsibilities are as a board member and what are not. They willingly, and without having to ask, act as an ambassador to the organization and recruit others to support it. This is the third of the board that exceeds your expectations. Can you picture who these people are on your board?

Another 1/3 of your board members will be ok and do what is basically expected of them. They mostly come to meetings, may be on a committee, and might occasionally help with fundraising when asked. They support you in theory but don’t go out of their way in practice. They probably need to be asked for their annual gift and even need a couple of reminders about it. They may even need reminders about what their role is and is not as a board member. They don’t actively act as ambassador for your organization or recruit others. This is the third of the board that is somewhat inconsistent. Have you got some board members who fit this description?

The final 1/3 of your board members will disappoint you. They hardly ever show up to meetings or respond to board emails. They don’t participate on any committee and never help with fundraising. You are not sure if they actually support either you or the organization as they are never around for you to find out. They don’t make an annual gift and can’t be pegged down as they are mostly MIA. They have no idea what their role is and don’t follow expectations. Forget acting as an ambassador! This is the third that just can’t be relied on at all and you scratch your head wondering why they wanted to be on the board in the first place. I'm sure you've got some board members in mind who fit into this category, right?

In order to stack the odds in favor of increasing your top third and decreasing your bottom third, the key is in how you attract and keep your board members engaged. Making sure it’s the right fit in the first place by having a good understanding about what they want to get out of the experience and what they can and are willing to bring to the table before they even come on board is critical. Remember that individual board members will not have the same expectations, communication needs, and strengths when it comes to acting as a board member for your organization. As a result, they will need to be treated individually and in a way that fulfills their expectations in order to keep them engaged. This doesn’t mean that you bend over backwards for them to do this. You definitely don’t want to be spending all your time cajoling high maintenance divas on your board. So weed those people out in the recruiting process and invest your time in the ones that help you make a difference in the world.

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