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Years ago, I had the good fortune to meet Peter, a wise man who was experienced in the ways of nonprofits. Peter was not only wise, but he was also wealthy and had access to the upper echelons of New York society.

For years, Peter had served on boards of nonprofit organizations — some small and modest, and some large and star-studded. He was a soft-spoken man. But when he spoke, people listened.

So when he told me about a way to strengthen boards — particularly before a capital campaign — I took note. And over the years, I have come to see the brilliance of his idea.

It’s a simple idea and one that won’t work overnight. But if you do what Peter suggested and keep it up, it has the potential to transform the reach and scope of your organization.

How to Build Your Board Before a Campaign

Here’s what Peter suggested.

Invite a guest speaker to every board meeting to talk with the board for 15 minutes. Start or finish each board meeting with the special guest.

Do this at every one of your board meetings.

Who Should You Invite as Your Special Guests?

  • Invite community leaders, political leaders, and foundation directors.
  • Invite the heads of area businesses.
  • Invite people who are making policy in your community.
  • Even invite donors in the community to share their stories about giving.

And that’s just the beginning of your list.

Why Will this Make a Big Difference Over Time?

Because every time you invite someone to come and present to your board, they will learn about your organization and you will learn about them and their projects.

Those little encounters will open doors over time to new relationships. Your board meetings will become more interesting. As a result, the attendance at your board meetings is likely to rise. And gradually, your organization will become better known as word gets out about the people who are being invited to speak with your board.

The Big Payoff: A Snowball Effect

When you regularly utilize these special guests at your board meetings, you will find people who wish to become more involved in your organization. Some may even become board members themselves.

As you develop this program, the list of people you wish to invite will grow and the opportunities that open up will be beyond anything you might have initially imagined.

In other words, this idea snowballs.

Try It Yourself — It Really Works

In the years since Peter shared this idea with me, I have encouraged many organizations to try it out. Those that have have benefited greatly. It’s a bit of work to put in place, but trust me (and trust Peter) — it’s well worth your time and energy.

3 Comments

  1. Barbara Barron

    Brilliant! Thank you for this excellent, generative idea.

    Reply
  2. Mark Hazell

    A fantastic idea — we’ve been really struggling with how best to get to know a broader spectrum of the movers and shakers in our community, and this idea cuts to the essence of everything we’ve been talking about, and it does so far more simply than anything we dreamed up.

    Reply
  3. Andrea Kihlstedt

    Thanks for your comments, Barbara ad Mark. I’m so happy this idea resonated with you. It’s always fun to be able to pass good ideas along!

    Reply

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