John+Marshal+for+webJohn Marshall, Senior Vice President 

Last May, I wrote an article entitled “Nonprofits, Boards and Managing Expectations: A Two-Way Street.” My effort was intended to share with the fundraising professional a few insights on what it takes to transform a board from “good to great” (in the words of one terrific author, Mr. Jim Collins).

I wrote about my experiences over the past 40+ years of working with a multitude of boards, many Salvation Army Advisory Boards, all different….all unique. And I specifically addressed the importance of creating clear expectations (of board members, of staff) and the great importance of having a comprehensive board member Job Description.

In reviewing that epistle, I realized that there was really more to be said about a few other insights I believe might be helpful to you as you continue in the process of creating the very best Advisory Board possible. My hope is that the following will be of assistance to you in this regard.

Primary Responsibilities Associated With Advisory Board Membership

Beyond what is found in the board member Job Description, it is important that board members are aware of the importance of:

  1. Their having an understanding and keen appreciation for the mission, motive, purposes and objectives of The Salvation Army.
  2. Becoming familiar with the function and services provided by The Salvation Army.
  3. Providing the Army with their support, encouragement, counsel and guidance.
  4. Becoming familiar with the means by which the Army operates….its sources of income as well as its areas of expense.
  5. Assisting Army leadership and staff in program and financial planning.
  6. Helping advance the Army within the community through personal advocacy and promotion – become a bona fide AMBASSADOR.
  7. Supporting the Army as a charitable organization, realizing its dependency upon charitable support of its programs, services and overhead.
  8. Helping to plan the maintenance and expansion of the Army’s properties and facilities from which it renders its programs and services to the communities it serves.
  9. Participating in the planning, preparation and operation of a capital campaign, if such is deemed appropriate.
  10. Attracting new board members with the skills to make a difference for the Army.

The Role of Army Leadership with the Advisory Board

I believe wholeheartedly that it is absolutely critical for board members to feel that the Army’s top leader (The Divisional Commander, Area Commander, Corps Officer) is interested in the efforts of the board and has a very real appreciation for their many efforts…..and shows it. Too many times, this is either neglected or relegated to another Officer. I know from experience that this can result in a board having less that the optimal level of enthusiasm we all want to see.

With that in mind, here is my list of “Top Ten Responsibilities” of the Officer in command when interacting with Advisory Board members:

  1. Share with members about the Army’s history, programs and services so that they are prepared to be even more effective AMBASSADORS within the community.
  2. Educate the board about the Army’s policies.
  3. Make certain that board members are communicated with in a timely manner about developments/issues which may impact the Army within the community….the good, the bad or possibly the ugly. Most board members really don’t want to be surprised by receiving bad news “after the fact.”
  4. Attend as many of the regularly scheduled Advisory Board meetings as possible and if not possible, assign a significant member of the leadership team.
  5. Share with the board the organization’s financial position and help to identify specific needs requiring specific funding.
  6. Ensure that the board holds an annual meeting….the “care holders” meeting…and attend.
  7. Be available to accompany board members on visits with those in the community possessing great influence….and affluence.
  8. Make certain that the Development Department has the necessary resources to support the board in its awareness and advocacy efforts.
  9. Within an appropriate period of time, make the effort to meet each member of the board one-on-one.
  10. Be a personal donor to the organization… “practice what you preach.”

Why Advisory Board Members Lose Interest

Lastly, one of the laments I have heard far too often over the years is about how difficult it is to not only recruit great board members, but to keep them. If you fit into that category, you might want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I assigning board members realistic goals?
  2. Are they receiving sufficient detail for carrying out their responsibilities?
  3. Am I allowing board members sufficient opportunity to provide feedback? And am I listening?
  4. Am I adequately recognizing/appreciating their efforts?
  5. Am I providing ample opportunity for them to help in making a decision?
  6. Is the work they are tasked to accomplish truly challenging?
  7. Am I providing board members with sufficient preparation and training to ensure they are successful?

No one ever said that managing volunteers was easy, especially when it comes to board members. They can be demanding or complacent, overbearing or invisible, fully engaged or just there for lunch. If a board member calls in advance to ask “what are we having for lunch,” you most likely have a problem on your hands!

Your task in managing these fine people is to do all you can to see that their experience is a time of real enrichment, both for them and most importantly for The Salvation Army and those it serves.

John F. Marshall is Senior Vice President with Jeffrey Byrne + Associates, Inc. and can be reached at or at (816)914-3780.