A volunteer board can be one of a nonprofit’s most valuable assets, but working with an unpaid workforce can be challenging. When I was a nonprofit fundraiser, I had the privilege of starting and managing a board of 25 business leaders and professionals. What a fantastic experience of cultivating a team, nurturing those relationships and welcoming them as ambassadors to the organization.

Herding cats

While ~15% of the group was serious about their commitment, the remaining 85% made me feel like I was herding cats. It felt like I was constantly nagging them to see if they had made the phone calls they promised or recruited potential sponsors for events. Sometimes they would blackhole for months and then show up to events without making the minimum required personal donation.

But you know what? They listed their board affiliation all over their LinkedIn profile, bragged on social media about their involvement and rarely followed through with their promises.

It would have been easy for to become jaded, but I cherished that 15% who worked tirelessly to fulfill their commitments. They made tons of calls, asked everyone they knew for funding and learned everything they could about our organization. Their passion for our cause radiated throughout Washington, D.C. and I’ll always never forget their selfless, persistent passion to raising awareness in the community.

My experience was not unique. 72% of nonprofits struggle with making sure that their board members are actively fundraising and/or keeping them motivated to do so.

Looking back, of course there are many things I would do differently! Low board engagement like this is a threat to a nonprofit’s vitality and a under-performing board directly impacts fundraising, governance, community engagement and mission. It also really bummed me out.

Improving nonprofit board engagement is part art and part science. Our mobile app, Amelia helps establish visibility and process to their efforts. This is where a high-visibility tool like Amelia can be helpful at mitigating the risk of an under-performing board.

Aim for the sweet spot when approaching board relationships

Amelia helps in the following ways:

  • Manages expectations — When board members are unsure of their personal role within the group, they will become apathetic or leave the group. While I worked hard to assign customized tasks and asks for each individual, I still found they weren’t following through on what they had promised. It was frustrating because I knew they were capable of fulfilling their board commitment — these were professional lobbyists, business owners, executives, entrepreneurs and diplomats.
  • Decreases communication silos — Communication rifts crop up when resources are disorganized. Amelia improves transparency, because fundraisers can assign specific responsibilities that board members can respond to and interact with. It’s a much more concrete way to receive responsibilities, because there’s a detailed ask and accountability. They can see exactly who they are responsible for engaging. Fundraisers can check the backend dashboard to see who has completed their work, which can then be discussed during the next conference call or meeting.
  • Improves access to fundraising data — Sometimes board members will not follow through on their word, because they feel they lacked all the resources necessary to have that conversation, including historical fundraising data. With Amelia, board members can easily see what donors and partners have given in the past and accurately have that conversation.
  • Provides talking points — No one wants to be out of the loop. Provide board members with key talking points and details via Notes, so they are more confident during donor meetings. Amelia helps streamline the organization’s messaging, so everyone is on the same page.
  • Saves paper — Amelia enables fundraisers to create simple call lists for their board members. Forget about that giant stack of papers that is worn from years of use. With Amelia, board members can manage a customized list of donors and partners to call upon. Instead of struggling through an outdated list, board members can easily log all their calls, take notes and communicate results back to the fundraiser without a ton of extra work.

Amelia is the kind of resource that helps nonprofits address some of these challenges and get to the next level of engagement with their board. As previously noted, managing a board is a blend of art and science.

Meet Amelia and sign up for a demo at www.AmeliaApp.com

This is a post ported over from our medium blog and originally written by Ashley Sundquist.