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Take Time to Celebrate! Don’t Overlook this Motivating Step in Board Development


by Steve Yoder, Community Development Regional Educator, Purdue Extension 


Over the past two months, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a non-profit organization’s board of directors from the Caribbean Island of Tobago. My assignment, arranged via Zoom through Purdue’s Farmer-to-Farmer program, matched me with the Tobago Agricultural Society. Its board was interested in improving its effectiveness through a series of trainings that focused on communication, structure, and understanding the needs of stakeholders. Over the course of five sessions, the board and I covered those topics, and more, as we walked through the nine steps of the board development cycle.

At our first session, I led an opening activity to give the group a taste of what the cycle is all about. Beginning with the end in mind, I had them start with the very last step:  Celebrate! That’s the step where boards take time, periodically, to acknowledge what’s going well with the organization. Examples can include securing a large grant, reaching an important milestone, or appreciating a retiring board member’s years of service.

For this group, I had them answer this simple question: “What is one thing you enjoy about serving on this board?”  After a few moments of Zoom silence, the responses poured in. Participants mentioned highlights such as being able to share their knowledge of farming with others and getting to learn more about agriculture in the region.

The activity took only a few minutes but left a significant impact on the group. At the end of the first day of training, I asked the board members to share their biggest “Aha!” moment from the session—something that stuck with them. The first person to speak mentioned that the “Celebrate!” activity left quite an impression. He explained that it was the first time the group had ever talked about what motives them to serve, and it was very motivating for them to hear what others had to say.

If your board members have never taken the time to share what motivates them to serve, I suggest you try it. With the holidays approaching, it can make for a great year-end activity and is a terrific way to encourage and inspire the group as it looks towards the new year.

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