April is National Volunteer Month. Over the next few weeks the Donor By Design Team will be reflecting on the impact volunteers have on our communities and our world. Today Michele warns us not to ignore “retired” volunteers.
Last week I received a form letter from a not-for-profit organization asking me to make a contribution to their annual appeal. This is certainly not an unusual occurrence; I receive fundraising letters often. However, this one got my attention because I hadn’t heard from this particular organization since I retired from their board over a decade ago.
When I was a board member, I contributed fairly generously. However, I haven’t continued to make contributions to them because no one has asked me in years. As a result, I have found other organizations and causes to support in its place.
I don’t think my experience as a past board member is unusual. Unless an organization has a system in place to keep past board members involved, they can lose track of those board alumni pretty quickly.There are just too many other not-for-profits out there ready, willing and able to scoop up experienced board members. For many organizations, that could mean a fairly significant volunteer – and donor – “churn rate.”
Organizations can slow down that churn. Here are some ideas for keeping former board members involved:
- Form an honorary board or create board emeritus positions to keep people involved, informed and engaged.
- Hold annual events just for past board members to keep them close.
- Immediately assign board members to new campaigners. Make their transition to “just plain donor” as smooth as possible.
- Make a plan to stay in touch. Yearly coffee or lunch dates with the executive director, lead pastor or major gift officer can help keep you on their radar.
Retired board members can be just as valuable to your organization as those who are currently active. They are already knowledgeable and supportive and can provide a wealth of experience to your organization in many ways outside of the traditional board model.
If you want to re-engage past board members and make sure current ones aren’t forgotten over the years, a system needs to be put in place so there is continuity and consistency. Your organization will be richer for the effort.
What are you doing to keep past board members engaged in your organization? Please share your ideas with us.