5 Ways to Steward Your Board Members

Tips and tricks to steward you board members

Sarah Willey
January 10, 2021 · 4 min read
5 Ways to Steward Your Board Members

We all know how important it is to say thank you to our donors. Beyond the regulatory requirement to provide an acknowledgement for tax purposes, we know that a donor who feels appreciated and understands how their donation touched another person’s life is more likely to give again.

It’s just as important, however, to thank those who volunteer their time instead of (or in addition to) their dollars. Their gift of time is, perhaps, even more valuable. After all, money is a renewable resource, and time is not. There’s one group of volunteers that deserves special attention – your board of directors!

This year, make sure your stewardship plans involve your board. It’s possible that they all make monetary contributions (perhaps this is even an expectation for them), but they deserve to get some personalized recognition for ALL that they do for your nonprofit.

Why steward your board?

  • They are likely donors too. Steward them and they may just up their donation.

  • They’ll feel even closer to your organization.

  • They are giving their time so it's the right thing to do.

  • The more connected your board is the more likely they will be to share your amazing organization with their network.

  • Lead by example. Steward your board because it shows them what you do for donors. Stewarding your board builds trust that the donor to your organization will be given similar treatment, too. Especially if they helped bring that supporter to you.

5 Ways to Steward Your Board Members

1. Handwritten cards

The handwritten card is such a simple way to say thank you. It’s one we often use with our donors, and it’s a great idea for our board, too.

Cards are inexpensive and they aren’t hard to write. It’s easy to ask other members of your organization outside of fundraising to help with. Depending on the size of your staff you may be able to have key staff members or even your full staff involved in the process.

A few years ago, I created a card just for the board members of my organization that said how “tea-riffic” they are, and included a tea bag inside each card. (I’m not this clever! Pinterest is full of wonderful ideas.)

Sarah Wiley Card & Tee Bag

2. Gift card from a local business

A gift card can be a nice way of saying thank-you. It’s easy to get an electronic gift card to a number of retailers and restaurants that your volunteers can redeem safely from home.

Perhaps there’s a local business that partners with your organization that would be willing to donate gift cards to support this effort. After the difficult year, most small businesses have had in 2020, it might also be a good idea to use a little budget to purchase some gift cards – your volunteers will appreciate it and it’ll strengthen your relationship with a business that may be a partner or donor in your work.

3. Exclusive experience

You want your board members to know your mission better than anyone. If it works for your mission, you may be able to combine stewardship with storytelling. Behind the scenes tour of a zoo or museum, anyone? A great way to make the board feel special while also sneaking in a few mission moments.

Another way to fit in a cool experience is to turn to your local partners. Weed a garden together with your local farm school. Plan a collective picnic with the boards of your partner organizations. Do one of those paint nights together and paint something related to your mission (these can even be done virtually while social distancing is needed!). With a little imagination, lots of ideas will come to light that could bring your board closer together while making them feel appreciated.

4. Public recognition/awards

Playing to the ego sometimes works!

Sometimes this takes the form of a plaque for the wall, acrylic or crystal decorative item to commemorate their achievement. It’s also possible to offer less grandiose items, such as lapel pins. These are especially nice as a way to recognize board members as they roll off aboard.

The more personal, the more meaningful. I was on a board for a few years where at the end of a term, staff and board members put together gifts that might include framed photos and branded merchandise, and current board members and staff would prepare reflections on the contributions of that person. Tears always ensued, in the best way.

You can also recognize your board members in a smaller way. I’ve had great luck recognizing board members with spotlights on the website blog. This is a win-win because it not only makes the board member feel special when they see their story, but it feeds the need for fresh website content as well!

5. Send a personalized video

You knew the video would have to be one of the suggestions, right? This is the Gratavid blog!

Send your board members a random thank you video for their time and commitment, compile a birthday video from the entire team, or send share a powerful testimonial with a personalized video at the front. Some of the most fulfilling words a board member can hear is a donor's story; video can help you make that connection.

Video is an engaging format, and especially after the isolation many have felt during 2020, that extra element of human connection can really make a difference in making your board feel appreciated.

Want to really wow them? Blend multiple strategies from this list over the course of the year! A handwritten card with a gift inside. A video with an invitation to an exclusive experience. Get creative, but make sure your board knows how much you value their time and energy, as well as any financial contributions they may be responsible for.

WRITTEN BY
Sarah Willey
Founder @ Sarah Willey LLC
Sarah Willey is an award-winning fundraising professional with a passion for learning, teaching, and building community. She works as a coach and consultant with nonprofits across the US and Canada to build sustainable individual giving programs and write great communications. A lifelong learner, she holds a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Washington University in St. Louis as well as the CFRE certification and a social media strategist (SMS) certification from the National Institute for Social Media, and is now pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration at the University of Missouri - St. Louis and expects to complete her dissertation in 2023.
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