You can fire a board member. You can shame a board member. You can ignore a board member. I have never heard of beating a board member. So when it comes down to motivating a board member, you might want to consider the carrot more powerful than the stick. Or in fact, the carrot might really be your only option.
Years ago I worked with a board in Queens, NY. The board chair’s name ended in a vowel, as did the vice president’s. I asked the board what would happen if a board member didn’t honor a commitment. He said, “I’m in the concrete business.” The V.P. said, “I’m in waste management.” I laughed. They didn’t.
In fact, when I got to know these pasta-eating jokers, they rewarded their board members more than any non-profit leaders I had ever met. They would send the family of an event chair a basket a cannolli and other goodies to thank them for all for their help on making the evening a success. They knew how much work a family does when someone chairs an event, whether it is on the event itself or taking up the slack at home. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have a basket of cannolli and wine than a carrot, and forget about the stick, or in their case, concrete.
As you think about how to reward board members, here are 52 ideas to mull around. Appoint your best Martha Steward wannabees (from an entertainment rather than a felonious point of view) and let them decide how to incentivize your achievers.
1. When you have a new board member, send a press release to the local paper, business journal, alumni magazine, church or temple bulletin and/or PR department of his or her corporation.
2. Create a “Member of the Moment” award for your annual meeting for quiet, behind the scenes leaders. Tiaras and crowns from a party store are always an elegant gift.
3. Surprise a particularly industrious board member by having the member’s car washed and detailed during a meeting.
4. Give new board members who have “seen the light” and joined your board, tiny flash lights for purse or pocket.
5. Start your board meetings with sharing celebrations of what is going well in your members’ personal, professional or volunteer lives.
6. Get a funny award, like an old bowling trophy, from a pawn shop, and pass it on to the board member who asks the best question.
7. Provide every board member with business cards for your organization. (To save money, have them printed by the sheet without the specific names and print them on your computer)
8. Create a Hall of Fame wall with photos of your board members.
9. Put your board members’ photos on your website.
10. Link your organization’s website to your board member’s websites and ask them to do the same.
11. Give a creative toy to celebrate great service such as a stuffed roadrunner or the Energizer Bunny.
12. Give all of your board members lottery tickets with the note, “Our clients (or members) don’t have to take a chance on their future with you on our board.”
13. Give your superstar a magnificent box of chocolates with the note, “I’ve gained so much from you, now it’s your turn,” or a heart healthy box of goodies with the note, “From my heart to yours.”
14. When a board member takes on a big committee assignment or agrees to chair a special event, present a folder with an engraved name plate with his or her name, the assignment or event and the year.
15. For your shining stars, present a certificate for one month of shoe-shines or a piece of jewelry with stars.
16. At the end of a long board meeting or retreat, hire a massage therapist to come to do chair massages.
17. Give a “Life Saver Award” for someone who helps out at the last minute. The award should be packs of Life Saver candies.
18. Use a wall chart to note the progress of a project, whether it’s getting new members, raising funds or serving more clients.
19. Send birthday cards to your board members. Better yet, call them and leave a message, even if they aren’t home.
20. Send an e-mail birthday greeting to your board member, reminding other board members to call or e-mail greetings.
21. At the end of a term or a long project or special event, write a thank you note to the board member’s family noting the contribution and acknowledging the time away from the family.
22. On your board roster, list hobbies. This will give other members an opportunity to connect.
23. Provide a special parking space for new board members or board members who have taken on extra responsibilities.
24. Give board members newly released books or videos that are germane to your organization.
25. To build relationships and to become “a learning organization,” create a book or movie club that convenes before your meeting to keep current on issues affecting your clients.
26. Send a meal, pay for a house-cleaning, lawn mowing or snow removal service for a board member’s home during an illness or after a big project.
27. After meeting a goal, if your board meets in the morning, give your members a boutonnière to wear to work. It will serve as a conversation starter.
28. Before talking about fundraising, give every board members a $100,000 Candy Bar or a Payday.
29. Give new volunteers and board members a coffee cup with your website and phone number. (Great also to give to funders and folks who refer clients)
30. Give board members post-it notes with your logo, phone number and website.
31. Create a pin or other logo-wear for multi-generational members of families who have served your organization.
32. Take photos of your volunteers and board members with their kids. Frame the photos as a thank you.
33. Bring a pizza or sandwiches to the staff for a communal lunch with the board. Ask each group to prepare a list of questions for discussion. Learn and enjoy!
34. After a walk or run event, give the chair and his/her committee certificates for pedicures. Have pedicures as part of a Happy Feet Debrief.
35. To celebrate an achievement, send an email message with an appropriate mp3 song as an attachment i.e. “She Works Hard for Her Money,” “Taking Care of Business” or “The Hallelujah Chorus.”
36. Create an on-line “Good News Gazette” where fundraising, membership goals or other victories are shared.
37. Raise the bar. Increase the goals and make specific plans to celebrate. Put your best party person in charge.
38. Give a board member an hourglass, watch or clock as thanks for the gift of his or her time.
39. After an event, have a volunteer of the year. Put a photo of that volunteer in your lobby and send a copy to the newspaper and to the volunteer’s boss, spouse, parent and/or children.
40. Have a “bright idea” award for the board members with the most innovative idea that they have also implemented. You might want to give a lamp or a year’s supply of light bulbs.
41. At the end of a board member’s term, don’t just “whack them and plaque ’em”, give them a final send off at a luncheon or breakfast in their honor. Share plans for future involvement.
42. Remember to celebrate holidays that are relevant to your mission. For instance, if you have a “new American’s program” or deal with other immigrant issues, bring a client to talk about his/her experiences for the 4th of July.
43. For your annual meeting or board retreat, use Photoshop to put your board members photos on a Wheaties box. If you have a member with poor attendance and a really, really fabulous sense of humor, put his or her photo on a milk carton.
44. Provide logo wear that proudly displays your web address. On the back, list what you can do/learn on the site.
45. When beginning the strategic planning process, give everyone involved a calculator, ruler or abacus that says “Everyone counts when it comes to (then state your mission or organization’s name).
46. At your national convention, surprise a board member who has done a particularly fabulous job with a suite.
47. Create a “President’s Award,” which is given yearly by the board president to the member of the board or a volunteer who has done exemplary work.
48. Inaugurate an “ABCD” award (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty) which can be given anytime during the year.
49. Instead of the traditional gavel, give a conductor’s baton, magic wand or magic lamp to rub, to a new board chair.
50. Have a professional photo taken of a board member, get him or her to autograph it, and frame it for your wall of fame or executive’s office.
51. For the board member who is always putting out fires, buy and present him or her with a real fire fighter’s hat. Present several different hats to the board member who wears many hats.
52. Buy a toy sheriff’s badge for the development committee, and deputize them as fundraisers.
If you are interesting in fund raising training for your board, check out http://www.carolweisman.com/newsite/fundraising/fundraising_retreats.html or call Carol at 314-863-4422.