What role does the board play in communications?

How can they be effectively engaged?

An organization’s communications are only as strong as the people who deliver them – this includes a nonprofit board. Your board is key to your communications and fundraising activities, as it embodies your brand and tells your story to raise dollars, create strategic partnerships and cultivate resources.

Ideally, you’ll have board buy-in to your brand purpose, personality and promise. And your board will fully understand the relationship between clear, consistent and compelling communications and the ability to move your mission forward. Developing a comprehensive strategic communications plan that illustrates how communications will help the organization achieve objectives will help in this regard.

Once you have board buy-in, you’ll want to engage the members to support your efforts. Here are some ideas to grow board involvement:

  • Position your board as ambassadors for your cause. As stewards, your board should be able to convey key messages and drive your brand forward at the community level. Provide board members with the tools they need to do so by keeping them informed of the good work you’re doing. You may also want to consider bringing in a consultant to provide communications training and help board members become comfortable in this role. If funds are a challenge, seek out pro brono services through organizations such as Taproot Foundation (www.taprootfoundation.org). You’ll also want to research local organizations that provide grants for nonprofit capacity building. State associations for nonprofits and regional associations of grantmakers can serve as useful resources for such research. And don’t forget, as ambassadors, your board members are also ideally positioned to watch trends in the community and report this intelligence back to staff
  • Form a board communications committee. Developing a formal committee can be an easy way to encourage board involvement on a regular or on an ad hoc basis. A committee can review communications materials and identify gaps, or even provide suggestions for capitalizing on resources and trends in the market. Ideally, you’ll have a board member with expertise in the area that can serve as lead. If you don’t have an existing board member with expertise in this area, make a priority of recruiting one. Be sure to use the opportunity to reach out to colleagues and partners in the communications industry to grow board participation.
  • Ask a board member to lead a high-profile project. When staff resources are stretched, and key projects could have significant community impact, an expert, connected board member may be an ideal project lead.
  • Use board connections. Ask board members to reach out to their networks to connect you with communications professionals who can help you meet your goals and objectives. Be sure to keep detailed records of all new connections to help you build relationships over the long term.

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