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Board Essentials Part 4: Engaging Networks

Over the past few weeks, we’ve discussed Parameters board work in (Part 1), Role of a board member (Part 2), and Strategic Work of nonprofit boards of directors.  I’m wrapping up this series with another aspect of board work:  Networking.  Let’s face it. The overwhelming majority of nonprofit organizations are short on cash and therefore limited in how they can invest in building relationships.  If you have a strong series of special events that bring people together to raise money on your nonprofit’s behalf, you have a great audience to work with.  People who already like you (including Facebook “like” you) are the folks to start with. If you’re doing advocacy work, these supporters should learn about it. Some will want to pitch in, contacting national, State, or local representatives to advance a cause important to your mission.

All of this kind of network work starts with the board of directors.  Whether I’m teaching one of my Nonprofit Management classes at Northeastern University in Boston, or advising my nonprofit clients, I introduce this topic using Gary Stern (Stern Consulting International) pamphlet:  CHAMPIONS WITH A CAUSE: The Nonprofit Board member’s Role in Marketing.  This is a great orientation piece to help volunteers get acquainted with ideas on how to approach marketing the mission and goals of your nonprofit organization.  Point #5 in Stern’s ten things every board member should know is “Have clear expectations for board members’ supportive roles.”  So, once the board has sufficiently addressed its marketing policy work, it can move on to other work: like engaging networks to help advance the mission.

By using Facebook, texting, getting events into the company newsletter, getting event information into one’s church or synagogue bulletin every board member can reach new audiences that should hear about what you are doing, and learn how they can help.

If you would like a copy of Gary Stern’s CHAMPIONS WITH A CAUSE, please e-mail me at Or, you can contact First Nonprofit Education Foundation at and request a copy directly from the publisher.

Get the networking motor running right at the heart of your nonprofit: start with the board of directors.

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