Don't Discount the Doers on Your Board!

A widely accepted “rule” regarding nonprofit boards of directors is that they should consist of “givers” and “getters” (i.e., folks who will make direct and significant financial gifts to your organization and those who may not necessarily make substantial gifts themselves but will help you find funding from outside sources). I would argue that there is third, often overlooked, type of director: the “doers.”

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It’s no secret that some people join nonprofit boards merely for the ability to list this “service” on their resumes. Unfortunately, I frequently see board doers get lumped in with these slackers.  They may not be “giving” or “getting” money, but guess what they are doing? Showing up early to your annual gala and placing programs at 100 tables. Sharing your social media posts. Helping to collect coats alongside staff and volunteers at your winter clothing drive. Attending every board meeting and using their expertise to guide the organization.

While your doers may not land you a big check directly, they may, in fact, be your most valuable board members. Think about it. Connections of “getters” are no good if they aren’t leveraged. The personal wealth of “givers” doesn’t help your organization unless they share it. In contrast to these sources of potential energy, doers are the kinetic energy that multiplies your organization’s service capacity and encourage accountability.  

The year end is a time for many nonprofits to re-examine their organizational structure, including the board of directors. I encourage you to make sure your 2019 roster holds a good mix of “givers,” “getters,” and “doers.” Not sure who is going to serve which role?  Ask them! Talk to each of your board members, new and existing, about what they’d like to accomplish in the coming year. Then, place them in roles / on committees with corresponding expectations.

Make sure to communicate your expectations, and hold people accountable for what they said they would give, get, or do. Don’t make “above and beyond” expected for some (i.e., the doers) and not for others; Make it appreciated for all. In sum, don’t focus so much on raising money for firewood that you don’t notice when someone builds you a fire!


Laura Chynoweth