I don’t know about you, but I sure do miss those days of carefree Springs Breaks where I’d put my feet up through the car window as my gal pal was driving along, breeze in our hair, radio blasting, and not a care in the world! 

While I’m re-living my younger years—a  time of less stress, fewer “to do’s”, and more shenanigans—I’m reminded of some lessons from back then that still apply to today. Given my work with boards of all kinds (the dysfunctional ones that make me bang my head against the wall as well as the ones full of committed people who give me hope), I’m taking this opportunity to apply the lessons of from spring breaks past to today’s nonprofit boards.

Lesson #1: Clear out

The act of spring cleaning– trashing that which no longer serves us– is beneficial in all aspects of life: electronic and hard copy files (imagine a cleaner office space…oooolala!); self-limiting beliefs holding you back (dump that mean bully); and toxic energy vampires who suck the life from us (you know who they are in your life—shall we kick them to the curb?!).

When it comes to boards, think about which board members are no longer a fit for your organization. Board members are not meant to serve a life sentence (hello, term limits!).  I recently worked with a board who was struggling with more seasoned board members who had been recruited under one set of expectations and a different type of leadership than the newer board members had. Some of the seasoned board members have a death grip on the past, not allowing room for new ideas and different approaches. If this sounds familiar or you’re dealing with something similar, ask yourself:

  • Which board members are weighing down or holding back our board and our organization?
  • Have we been clear with these board members about our concerns? 
  • Have we given them an opportunity to make some shifts in the right direction? 
  • What have we done to support them in this process?
  • Have we done all we can? Is it time to thank, release, and move on?

Lesson #2: Revive and reinvigorate

What is your spring indulgence—that household decoration or new purchase that renews your spirit? For me, it’s buying a candle that scents my home with new aromas and puts me in a different state of mind. 

Applying this to your board, what can you introduce to renew the energy? Board service can be tough, especially with all of the other demands your board members have in their lives. One way to re-energize is by recruiting new board members with intention and care. New board member energy is often a great gift to an organization and to new ways of thinking. Another practice that can work well is mixing up your board meetings. A new meeting location, a different type of board agenda, or even a spring cocktail hour for board members to connect on a personal level are all ways to revive and reinvigorate your board.

Ask yourself:

  • What has grown stale with our board practices that could use a refresh?
  • What is some new energy we can introduce to fire up our board?

Lesson #3. Plant the seeds for growth 

Just like the seeds we plant in the perfect soil in our garden and the plants we water so they will continue to grow, we can carry this forward into our own lives and with our boards.

I often find that nonprofit executives complain about how their boards aren’t performing well or aren’t doing what they promised. Then I ask, what education have you provided? Some people have never governed. Some people have never served on a nonprofit board. Some people have never shared a story. Some people have never asked for money. 

Ask yourself:

  • What training/education does my board need to be successful in their role?
  • What information do board members need to be storytellers and ambassadors for our organization?
  • What onboarding do we provide to set up board members for success from the beginning?

I’d love to hear which of the lessons above you’re going to kick into gear during your spring cleaning. And even better if you can tie these into your spring breaks of the past! 

Hat tip to you,

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