How to re-engage your board members (or yourself!)


Why have your board members switched off? Why have they lost their internal flame?

There is nothing worse than a bored board. In order to be leaders of change and to inspire other board members, your station’s members, your volunteers and your community, it is important to ensure your board members remain engaged and excited. This will help to generate innovative, collaborative and exciting solutions for change and progress at your station.

But people often wonder: how do you keep board members engaged? Research shows that people do not often lift their game in response to reward and/or punishment. Rather, people are motivated intrinsically, by the joy of a task itself.

While good governance, professionalism, transparency and compliance are important for any board or management committee, when board members are asked to complete only compliance-driven, bureaucratic work, they become at risk of losing their passion for the bigger picture.

However you can work with board members to help them rediscover their passion and drive, as well as to learn how to nurture it (and them!). One question, asked three ways, will help you discover these truths. Perhaps you could ask it during board evaluations, inductions, development planning or in one-on-one meetings. Or, perhaps, you could ask it of yourself.

1. Why am I on this board?

What was the driving passion that encouraged you to join the board initially? Why did you decide on board membership as opposed to another form of volunteerism? What did you hope to gain from the experience? What did you want to learn from the experience?

Answering these questions will help you to identify how your current board experience is or is not providing you with what you had hoped for on signing up. What could you or the board change to increase your satisfaction?

2. Why am I on this board?

Why you? What is your unique contribution to the board’s work? If you were actively recruited to be on the board, why were you targeted? If you were elected, why were you chosen ahead of the other candidates? If you were the only person nominated, why did they choose you instead of nobody at all? Regardless of how you became a board member, you should be able to identify at least one thing that you, and only you, contribute to the board and the station. Answers could be that you have specific skills, character traits, connections or experience. Pin your answer down. If it still eludes you, ask yourself, ‘If I left this board, what would the station lose?'

Once you know what you offer the board, you should ask yourself, ‘How am I contributing? How could I contribute more in the future or in a more effective way?’

3. Why am I on this board?

Why this board and not the board of another organisation? For long-serving board members, it might be better for you to ask, ‘Why am I still on this board?’ You may have been invited to join the board by someone you liked and respected. You may have taken up the first board opportunity offered to you. Or you may have become a board member because of your long-standing connection with the station in other roles.

Don’t settle for easy answers – particularly if your motivation is dwindling. If answers don’t come to you, try asking yourself, ‘What would have to change for me to be happy with this board?’

Hopefully by answering this one question three ways you will be able to understand why your passion is dwindling, work to reignite it and also generate ideas for positive change at your station.

This resource was adapted from Michelle Taylor’s article ‘Why Am I on this Board? One Question, Three Ways’.