Say Goodbye to a Board Member Without Saying Goodbye

Say Goodbye to a Board Member A close friend, Alex, told me an all-too-common, disheartening story about a nonprofit board she left a few years ago.

She was a founding member of a small nonprofit’s board of directors. She was an active volunteer, and one of their major donors, for two terms before deciding it was time to step down.  She mentioned her intentions to the president of the board, and he asked her if she would stay on. She agreed to one more term, helping to plan dinners for 3 fellow board members who stepped off during that time.

When her term was up, with her last meeting on the horizon, there was no talk of a dinner. In fact, there was not even an acknowledgement at the meeting for her service to the organization.  She awkwardly walked out wondering if the door was going to hit her on the way out.

This was no way to say goodbye to a board member.

December rolled around, and she began to wonder whether she should continue to donate. She helped found, build and strengthen this nonprofit. She had been invested in the mission, vision and values. But she felt ignored and underappreciated.

If you were in her shoes, what would you do?

Now flip that thinking, and consider, what you can do to prevent this situation with your board members.

  • Treat all current and past board members as loyal, valuable donors. Whether they have been giving $500 a year or $5,000, they are supporters that should be prime candidates for lifelong relationship.
  • Keep in touch. If they have been engaged as volunteers, encourage them to continue giving their time, perhaps, in smaller ways. Use stewardship “moves” to engage them around the calendar – not just write a little note on the bottom of the annual appeal when it is time to ask for a donation to pretend you are personalizing the ask. In other words, say farewell to a board member without saying goodbye to the person.
  • Honor their time and energy during the off-boarding process. Is a dinner necessary? If you have done it for previous board members than it seems like the right thing to do. If you are changing the way you do things, explain that and honor them in a different way. It can be as simple as toasting them at a small event, giving them a special gift at a board meeting and publicly thanking them in a newsletter article. People don’t expect the same treatment year in and year out, but they do expect the same respect.

What happened to Alex and her donations? The first year that she stopped giving to the organization she felt guilty. But, then, she reminded herself that she is not a priority to them. If she was, she would still be giving.  Now, she is just one more statistic contributing to that organization’s low donor retention rates. And she is happily involved in two other nonprofit organizations.

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