It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

How many of you have seen the Staples commercial where parents are singing the ubiquitous holiday song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the year”? – touting the coming of fall, the start of the school year… and the kids FINALLY getting out of the the house and back to school! I tend to agree with the sentiment in the commercial. There is a crispness to the air, a feeling of a fresh start: for kids – new notebooks, binders, a fun lunchbox; for adults – time to regroup after the hectic yet unique pace of summer (and…I don’t actually mind sending my own kids out of the house and off to school:).

What does this time of year mean for boards and particularly this year as COVID restrictions and concerns begin to ease? For many of our boards, opportunities for in-person engagement is becoming more of a reality, the focus of meetings and board work can begin to return to pre-COVID mode rather than the emergency mode we were oftne in the last couple of years.

Here are five things to think about as your board embarks on its work this fall.

1.   Facilitate Connections

People join boards because they believe in the mission AND they are often looking to connect with others who feel similarly. For the last few years, large numbers of people joined boards and never actually met their fellow board members. If you are meeting in person, devote time during your meetings for board members to get to know each other and form meaningful relationships. If you are not meeting in person, but have access to café’s, parks, etc. – be creative, find times for people to meet up informally before the weather becomes too cold. An investment in the relationships between board members will engender greater devotion to board service and will position your board to have deep conversations that lead to constructive and productive board meetings. 

2.   Revisit your “Best Practices”

The last couple of years forced many boards into a mode of operation that necessitated setting aside some best practices that were in place pre-pandemic. Did your board find itself in a reactive mode and maybe more deeply involved in programming and operations versus governance?

Take time to reflect upon what practices your board had been adept at and plan to return to those practices. 

3.   What’s the Plan?

Was your board making great progress toward achieving its strategic planning goals pre-pandemic? Did your board have priorities that it set aside to address the looming issues that arose during the deepest parts of COVID? Take time to return to your strategic plan (if you have one), make adjustments as needed, and recommit to achieving your strategic planning goals. No strategic plan … Make a “plan to plan,” start thinking about when the organization should engage in a strategic planning process and in the meantime, start the process of addressing those strategic issues that are critical to your organization’s success.

4.   Get High…. In Your Conversations😊

COVID forced many boards into the “weeds” (pun intended) often engaging in discussions about their organization’s operations.  This fall, make a commitment to return to high level, mission driven topics that will lead to productive and exhilarating generative conversations.   

5.   Rebuild Your Social Muscles

It feels like everyone is starting to come out of their shells – reconnecting with friends, meeting up for coffees, even enjoying a festive wedding! Now is the perfect time to re-engage with the social aspects of your friend raising and fundraising efforts . Invite current and potential donors for coffees (see what they look like out of their zoom boxes😊); if your institution is allowing visitors, invite your supporters to see your programs first hand – take them on tours, include them in an upcoming in-person program, help them to reignite  their passion about your organization’s mission.

Stay safe and enjoy reactivating board’s best work!

Linda Mann Simansky is a non-profit consultant who specializes in organizational needs assessments, strategic visioning, leading focus groups for organizations and their constituents, and program evaluations.