A version of this article first appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.
Enhancing the public standing and promoting understanding of the organization are fundamental board member responsibilities, but beyond inviting friends and colleagues to the organization’s activities, it can be challenging to know how to do this consistently. Board members are ambassadors for the organization; they can (and should) have a powerful impact on its profile in the community.
Make Your Affiliation with the Organization Public
A simple way to serve as an ambassador for the organization is to make your connection to the organization visible. Including board affiliations on your LinkedIn profile or mentioning your board member role with an organization in conversations with colleagues helps others recognize your connection. This will encourage friends and colleagues to talk with you (and others) about the organization, potentially sharing questions, comments, and ideas.
Being public about your affiliation with an organization signals to others that you support its work and its role in the community. It encourages others to extend the trust and support they have for you to the organization. By publicly associating yourself with the organization, you lend it your credibility. This can help shape the opinions your friends and colleagues have of the organization.
Talk About Your Connection to the Organization
Talking about the organization from a personal perspective is a much more effective way of promoting understanding of its impact in the community than reciting information that can be found on its website. Consider what motivated you to serve on the board. Be prepared to discuss why you became involved with the organization and why you are excited about its work. Incorporate these motivations into your personal elevator speech about the organization. If someone is interested in the organization’s metrics, you can always provide these details as a follow-up to your conversation.
Talking comfortably about your connection to the organization may require a little practice. Taking some time during the board meeting for members to develop and practice their personal elevator speeches can be a good way to get to know your colleagues better. It also provides the opportunity to share ideas about promoting the organization and talking authentically about its work.
Prepare Yourself for Opportunities
Networking events and social gatherings provide good opportunities to let colleagues and friends know more about your organization. A little preparation before attending these types of events will enable you to talk about current activities of the organization when someone asks you, “What’s new?” Mentioning upcoming events—such as a performance or an educational opportunity—or discussing a recent organizational success story allows you to shine a light on the organization’s work and can provide a refreshing shift from the more typical work-focused conversations that often occur at these types of events.
It’s a Two-Way Street
Enhancing the public standing of the organization is about telling your story and listening to others as they describe their understanding of and experience with the organization. Listening and taking these messages back to the organization can help it enhance programs and communication. Positive information provides an opportunity for the board and staff to reflect on what’s going well. Negative information can help the board and staff make improvements. If you discover that your friends and colleagues simply don’t have any opinions or knowledge about the organization’s work, it may indicate a need to improve and expand communication and marketing efforts.
As you think about your role as a board member ambassador, consider what you are doing—and what more you can do—to increase understanding of your organization within your own networks. As each member of your board does this, the connections your organization has throughout the community will be strengthened. This will enhance all other aspects of the organization’s work.