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Former Board Members: A Nonprofit's Most Underutilized Asset

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Are your former board members treated like the fine wine they are, or are they – for the most part – just ignored?

Is there a plan in place for perhaps the most precious of human assets your organization and its mission have created?

If the answer is “yes” to the two questions above, congratulations! This probably means you have a plan for former board members. If you are really on top of your game, the plan is somehow a portion of a larger strategic plan.

If you aren’t leveraging former board members, there are two possibilities:

  1. You don’t have any former board members
  2. You have some former board members, but they left on bad terms

Luckily, there is one solution to both items above:

Term Limits = Former Board Members

Term limits are an indispensable aspect of proper governance at any nonprofit organization. They allow board members to stay focused and engaged during the time they are “on duty,” as well as allowing the organization to politely weed out poorly performing board members.

Having been part of our organizations with no term limits, I can truthfully attest to the fact that it is much common for those poorly performing board members to stay and continually be negative or not contribute for decades!

If you set term limits, you are going to have former board members that, at worst, were above average, if not great assets to your organization. With no plan, their attachment level to your mission can wane. Plus, their large amount of knowledge and wisdom is sitting idle.

So, now that you have some former board members (on good terms), how can you utilize them?

Committees Are Crucial

Just because someone is not on the board does not mean they cannot be part of any of your standing committees. Especially such standing committees as:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Fundraising
  • Finance
  • Governance
  • Community Outreach
  • Marketing and Communications

Committees, by their very nature, are by invitation. They are a wonderful place to sprinkle in possible future board members so they can be evaluated in action, as well as a few of your “best” former board members.

Committee meetings are much more casual than board meetings. They are usually set for mutually convenient times, so even your “snow bird” former board members can attend.

Mixing experienced former board members with potential new board members and existing board members? It’s an opportunity for magic. Occasionally, the knowledge and passion transfer is even better than even the best board orientation.

How can you afford not to take advantage of this?

Special Projects May Be Even Better

Another form of a committee associated with your board leadership is a category referred to as special project committees. These are formed for special needs as they occur. They are then disbanded when the special need is completed or accomplished.

Here are a few typical special projects found within nonprofits:

  • Fundraising Capital Campaign
  • Fundraising Endowment Campaign
  • Any Emergency Situation (such as a disaster)
  • Opportunity to Purchase a Building
  • Opportunity to Expand the Mission
  • A One-Time Special Event

Any one of these could occur for every nonprofit over the course of an extended time period. Can you honestly think of a better place to sprinkle in wisdom and experience?

Such special project committees allow the former board members to stay connected if not expand their passion for your mission. It also allows them to mentor present and future board members during the handling of the special project.

Benefits Galore

Hopefully, everyone reading this blog is either, already nurturing and utilizing these amazing assets called former board members, or will be formulating a plan to do in the near future.

Besides the knowledge, wisdom, experience and mentoring this group can provide, don’t forget the immense impact passionate former board members can have on fundraising and legacy giving. This group should be the fulcrum of any legacy giving society for any nonprofit!

Best of luck in this endeavor! If you have had any experience in this realm please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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