Determining how people in Hollywood are connected to Kevin Bacon has become the stuff of legend and much laughter. As comical as it may seem, you might want to try a similar exercise with your association’s board members.
How much do you really know about their connections and networks outside your organization? In a recent article for About.com, Josh Mail, chief marketing officer at Relationship Science, writes, “Your board is not just for fundraising or decision-making. Its relationship capital is worth a lot more.”
He makes an important point and encourages nonprofit organizations to facilitate communication between board members and their peers. Mail notes that “peer-to-peer influence is the most important kind.” Then he goes on to outline several ways organizations can “mine [their] board’s relationship capital.”
Using Mail’s framework as a starting point, I would like to suggest three questions that you need to ask board members to gain more knowledge about your their relationships and ultimately leverage their networks for your benefit.
- Would you be willing to reach out to your professional network? As the saying goes, birds of a feather usually flock together. Your association’s board members are highly successful professionals at the top of their fields. As such they have likely built networks of other successful professionals. Mail recommends asking them to “reach out to their networks as early and as often as you find appropriate.”
- Do you include information about your attendance at association events and other important organizational news in your social media posts? According to Mail, “social media is an often untapped asset of your board members —specifically, their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts.” They should be encouraged to make posts that reference events and other initiatives with which they may be involved.
- What contacts did you make during previous nonprofit service? Many of your association’s board members may have served on the boards of other nonprofit organizations as well. They may be able to tap into the connections they made there to move your mission forward as well. For example, Mail suggests that a board member could “facilitate introductions to donors he or she worked with in their past life, who may also be interested in your mission.”
The responses to these questions represent the start of a good foundation that you can use to build upon your members’ relationships so that their friends become yours too.