Presenting to Your Board: Four Tips on Making an Impact
Updated: Nov 9
You know the cycle... whether it’s monthly, quarterly or semi-annually… you have that feeling of nervousness that happens when you see that meeting approaching on your calendar. The board meeting.
Presenting to your board of directors can be daunting, no matter how supportive or inspiring your board is. You want to get their advice, garner more support for your organization, and instill confidence in your organization and its vision.
It’s normal to be nervous, but presenting to your board can be an energizing experience as well. Here are a few tips to make your presentations easier and more effective.
#1 Tell a Story
An important part of leading a nonprofit, as you well know, is telling stories about who your organization is and why it matters. You should approach your meetings, and specifically your presentations to the board, as an opportunity to tell a story.
Of course, you probably have to talk about the budget, personnel, and challenges you face. You'll also want to share your organization’s accomplishments and big wins since you last met. This can often be really effective if you personalize it. A story from a client or two that demonstrates your work can be more powerful than your own words. If they can’t be there in person, consider showing a short video.
Be sure to think about the broader narrative you are telling. When your stories highlight the importance of your work and make it more tangible for your board, your board members can connect with it on a human level.
"Back-to-school is so busy and important for us. We want to share a story about one of the families we helped get tutoring and school supplies last year..."
#2 Weave in Data
When you have your powerful story to tell to your board, you will need to back it up with meaningful data. Often board members work in the private sector where they are used to seeing KPIs (key performance metrics) or other performance data shared in graphs, spreadsheets, or even interactive dashboards that update instantly. Be sure to weave in data into your presentation and support important messages with key metrics you collect: the number of clients served, year-over-year increases in outcomes achieved, or engagement with the community. You know your key metrics, and you should have to have these at the ready to share with the Board and back up your work.
"This was just one of 250 families we worked with last year to help them start school on the right foot. Our goal is to help 300 families this year, so we need 5 extra volunteers a day to help us."
#3 Know Your Audience and Nourish Them
Each interaction with your Board is an opportunity to share, get feedback, and to learn from the amazing people that serve on your board. Learn your audience. What do they care about? What questions keep popping up over time? If you are working in a new organization or with a new board member, get to know them personally over lunch or a virtual coffee chat.
You can craft a more meaningful presentation when you know what motivates, inspires, and frustrates your board members. You will know what to highlight and be prepared to answer the the hard questions they’ll probably ask.
"New Board Member (skeptical): We’re a food pantry. Why are we spending so much time and money on backpacks?"
"You (graciously): I agree! We are a food pantry, and we’re so much more than that. Our neighbors come to us for food, sure, but they really come to us for support, encouragement, and community. Our back-to-school program means that the kids in our community can go to school with everything they need, ready to learn, and a greater feeling of dignity. Food is the biggest need we serve on paper, but behind that is our mission to uplift and empower."
#4 Leave Room for Questions
Leaving room for questions doesn’t necessarily mean that the last 10 minutes are open for Q&A. Your board might prefer highly formal or informal presentations. Regardless of that preference, remember that your board members are champions of your mission and have expertise in many areas. Take advantage of that and actively seek their feedback. Leave room to ask them questions about their opinions about what you shared, the direction you are going, and whether they see the vision, mission, and operations (budget and otherwise) aligning.
Treating your board as trusted, valued colleagues goes a long way to building a deeper commitment to the organization. It can be tempting to present everything as shiny and perfect to a board, but do ask them the hard questions and don't be afraid when they ask you the same.
"We had enough donations and volunteers last year to support 250 families, but we need to find new places to recruit this year. We’d welcome your ideas to identify more resources to help us meet our goal of supporting at least 300 families this year.”
Your Board Can be Your Best Partner
To effectively partner with your nonprofit’s board of directors, they must be informed and engaged. By following these 4 tips, you can help your board shepherd your organization forward and support its mission.
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Founder, CountBubble, LLC