Presenting to the Board

presenting to the Board

Presenting to the Board of Directors is something that many leaders of volunteers need to face. You’re aware of something that your volunteers need (say, extra training) but you don’t have the authority yourself to put it in place. You may need access to extra financing or other resources, and those extra resources need to be approved by your Board of Directors.

How do you go about getting them approved? Many leaders just delegate the responsibility to their Executive Director. After all, they meet with the Board regularly. This can work, but it’s important to remember that the Executive Director goes into those Board meetings with a whole laundry list of things to discuss. What you’re asking for is just one of many things, and it’s one that they may not fully understand themselves. Nor will it be their first priority.

You need to start presenting to the Board yourself.

I know; that can be scary. But it’s less so if you’ve prepared. Here’s how.

First, become very clear on what you’re asking for.

Not: “we need more money for training” but “we need $150 to send our five most senior volunteers for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion training”. See the difference? The more concrete and specific your ask, the more likely it is that you’ll get it. No one wants to approve something when they don’t really know what it is.

Second, have a list of both the problems with the status quo, and the benefits to approving the request.

“I’ve noticed that some of our volunteers don’t know how to interact respectfully with clients of different sexual orientations or cultures. This is causing resentment among our clients, and it’s taking extra time in scheduling as I try to put these volunteers in situations where they won’t inadvertently offend anyone. The training will open their eyes to the situation, and give them the tools and language that they need to become more inclusive, causing less friction and saving administrative time.”

Have the details for the request on hand.

Who is doing the training, when it will take place, how long it is, etc – though you may not need to mention them unless you’re asked. Board meetings can be long-running things, and if you are brief but still thorough, you’ll make everyone much happier.

Figure out how much time you need to cover all the salient points, with a bit of padding for questions.

Then go to your Executive Director, explain what your request is, and ask if they can arrange for you to speak to the Board. Let them know how long you are expecting your presentation to last. If your Executive Director says that they will do it for you, push back a bit. As I mentioned earlier, your request won’t be their top priority. Tell them that you’d rather do it yourself because you have all the details at your fingertips, and can give specific examples and information that would be too much trouble for the Executive Director to have to remember. There’s not much you can do if they insist, but try to do it yourself. You’ll be more successful than they will.

If you’re asking for something major, where you’re going to need a fair bit of time (half-an-hour, for example), or maybe a demonstration or a PowerPoint presentation, to effectively make your case, be aware that they may not be able to fit you into the next scheduled meeting, so allow yourself enough time that it won’t be too late if you have to wait a couple of months.

When the time to present comes, take a few really deep breaths, focus on the importance of what you’re asking for, then just get through it. They’re not expecting you to be a polished speaker. If you’re friendly and you know what you’re asking for and why you’re asking for it, you’ll be fine.

Volunteer leaders need to be advocates for their people.

The most common, and arguably the most important, group you will be advocating to is your Board. If you can become good at presenting to the Board on behalf of your volunteers, you will make a massive difference to the quality of your program, and thus the impact that your organization makes in your community. Good luck!