I’m often asked by the communications directors I coach about the relationship they should have with their nonprofit’s board of directors.
Should they attend meetings? What marketing metrics should go in a board report? If they get 10 minutes with the board at a meeting, how should they spend that time? Should they have a marketing and communications committee and, if yes, what would they do?
I’m upfront about my bias about boards before I answer: I’m generally not a fan of them meddling in comms work (see my word choice — “meddling” — I told you I was biased).
More often than not, I hear stories of how board members have hurt or hindered rather than helped. Or how a board member’s involvement, or a discussion amongst several board members, actually creates more work for the comms team without generating any organizational benefit to justify that additional work.
Sure, there are lots of ways that board members could help in theory . . . playing the public “ambassador” role, providing access to additional resources like their own company’s media relations list or media training, and ensuring that the strategies and plans they approve are adequately staffed, for example.
But, honestly, I just don’t see that happening nearly as often as I see board members individually and boards collectively making more busy work, distracting from real priorities, and expecting whatever pet or “great” idea they have to be implemented immediately.
I would love to be told I am way off-base on this and that there are tons of great examples where boards have worked collaboratively with full-time, paid comms staff to make even greater things possible than the staff could do on their own.
Do you have such a story? Please share if you do!
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