Sometimes board and committee members don't really get to know
each other. They meet and discuss issues but may not have any
notion of each other's interests and background. This is too bad
for a number of reasons:
The following are three ways that can help us learn about each other.
1. At the beginning of the annual board retreat (and
you do have one, I hope), have each person present choose a partner
(someone they don't already know well). Each pair should go off
to a different corner of the room or into another room and interview
each other. Give each pair the following questions on an 8-1/2
x 11 piece of paper.
Each person should chose the most surprising thing they learned about the person they interviewed and print it in large letters on the back of the 8-1/2 x 11 piece of paper. All give the papers to the meeting chair, and she/he will tape them to the wall with the surprising facts facing the group. When all papers are on the wall, go around the room and guess who the person is who "plays in a rock band", "wanted to be a professional football player", "loves to read Goethe in the original German" or whatever. Each person writes his or her guesses on the papers, and then one by one, the chair asks that the "real" person identify him/herself. At that time, the person who did the interview can add any other interesting facts about that person. (If you use this at a board retreat, the statements about the one thing each person would like to see the organization accomplish this year can be a good way to launch the retreat's planning process.)
2. At the first meeting of a committee, break the group into pairs and have them interview each other for five minutes each. Then ask each committee member to introduce the person he/she interviewed. This works better than having committee members introduce themselves because the person doing the interviewing has to listen in order to do the introduction. When people introduce themselves, others tend not to listen because they are thinking about what they want to say when called on!
3. Less fun, but a good resource, is to have a board and committee member book for the organization that contains information on each person. This is helpful when looking for someone to take on a particular job or to build networks with businesses or organizations. The following is a sample form:
As we work together, it is helpful for us to know you and your community involvement more fully. We would appreciate your filling out the following and returning it to the executive director or board chair.
Current Position with this Organization:__________________________________________
Boards of directors on which you serve or have recently served:
Leadership positions you have held in the community:
Other organizations (religious, charitable, educational, professional) in which you take an active interest:
The major area you pursued in your education.
Areas of interest or expertise (don't be modest):
The areas of this organization's work that most interest you?
Jeanne H. Bradner is an author, consultant, trainer and speaker on volunteerism, board development and leadership. She is the author of three publications, Passionate Volunteerism, The Board Member's Guide, A Beneficial Bestiary and Leading Volunteers for Results: Building Communities Today. She served as director of the Illinois Governor's Office of Voluntary Action, Midwest Regional Director of ACTION, and Executive Director of the Illinois Commission on Community Service. She is the volunteer program specialist for Illinois' Harper College Volunteer Management curriculum. Send your comments and questions to Jeannebrad@aol.com.