Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Engaged Board Member

Here's a bit from a twitter exchange between @npmaven, @alexandrapeters, and @GailPerrync:
"A perpetual question! ... but I always wonder, what does "engaged" mean for a board?"
Unfortunately, my answer takes a little more than 140 characters, so it will have to be a blog post.

My first thought on "engagement" is that it is demonstrated by involvement beyond speaking up at board meetings: committee work, volunteering for tedious tasks (envelope stuffing anybody?), sending out minutes on time...

But that's simply activity. To some extent, it's busy work. Engagement goes beyond that, to less tangible, but far more critical, elements.

For board members to be fully engaged, they should not just care about the organization, but about the cause. The nonprofit's mission must be something that touches them. Even if they weren't on your board, they would still be reading articles about the issues you work on, and discussing them with their friends, and doing so in a way that demonstrates both knowledge and understanding.

An engaged board member doesn't need to be asked twice to solicit their friends for a donation, and doesn't shrink and hide when asked to speak to the press or elected officials on behalf of your cause.

The engaged board member is an activist, an advocate, and a leader, as well as a hard worker who shows up on time having read the board packet before the meeting.

What does "engaged board member" mean to you? Post a comment here, or join in the conversation at twitter: I'm there as "NonprofitKenG."

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Ken, for taking this idea even further. I agree with you that it's about being touched by the mission, and I love what you said about how an engaged board member would be someone who'd still be reading and talking about these issues even if he or she weren't on the board.

    But I wonder a lot of the time if that word "engaged" doesn't have an edge to it? I think there is often an assumption that it is someone else's job to engage them. How often have you seen a blog or an ad for a book or service that talks about "engaging your board"? By your definition, their own interest and enthusiasm would be doing that. If they don't have that interest, someone else's attempts to engage them most likely aren't going to work.

    So, first, make sure boards are really made up of people who think the cause rocks. Second, let their engagement be about genuine involvement on their part, not about a construct of "engagement" designed by staff. And that's a whole other blog...