“Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” ~~ Henry Van Dyke

Experienced board members and a few new ones attended a workshop on being effective in their roles. After refreshing their knowledge about why governing matters to their nonprofit and how boards have potential for significant positive impact, I asked: “Are your skills, talents, gifts, connections etc. that are relevant to your board service being fully utilized 100%?”

No hands went up.  OK, that’s typical.  “How about 80%?”  No hands again.  “70%?”  Nope.

It wasn’t until I got to 50% that a little more than half raised their hands.  I ask this question a lot and this is the worst result I’ve gotten. We discussed this a bit and we discovered something.

Before I posed the question, everyone had taken a few minutes to reflect on the skills, talents, etc. that he/she possesses and, then, to identify those relevant to board service.  But, this was a new awareness: they hadn’t considered before what they personally were bringing to their board service.

Because of that they missed the opportunity to share and discuss with the board chair or the executive director or even fellow board members the unique, personal way they could add value to the board and their nonprofit.

When I was a nonprofit executive I experienced this first hand. One board member who had served for over two years happened to mention she wanted to chair our event committee.  She was a zoning expert with local city government connections—but we had no idea she had ever worked on a fundraising event. I must admit her request surprised me and left me wondering how she could be effective in the role. Well, we discovered that she has chaired a very significant community fundraising event for several years. I was flabbergasted. How could we not know this?

Don’t miss out on the wonderful ways board members can contribute to your mission! I have three tips for you:

  1. Invite new board member prospects to identify their gifts and talents and ask they how they see them using them in board service with your nonprofit.
  2. Ensure your board orientation includes a systematic way for people to reflect on their talents and connect those to their board service.
  3. Have all current board members reflect on and identify their unique gifts to discover how they can be of even more value.

Take time to unleash the full potential of your board!  You and your board will greatly benefit from leveraging the unique ways each board member can add value.  Are you tapping into that goldmine of talent, energy, and resources?