The Crucial Role of Community Engagement in Nonprofit Board Service

By Riley Mills December 20, 2023

Serving on a nonprofit board is a commitment that extends beyond boardroom discussions and decision-making.

Board members play a pivotal role in fostering community engagement, a key element that significantly influences public perception, fundraising efforts, supports leadership, and strengthens the organization as a whole.

Community engagement is the lifeblood of nonprofit organizations, providing the necessary connection between the mission, those served, and its stakeholders. Board members who actively engage with the community create a ripple effect that positively influences donors and fundraising outcomes. According to a Stanford Social Innovation Review study, organizations with engaged boards are more likely to attract and retain donors, showcasing the direct correlation between board community engagement and fundraising success.

Donors are more inclined to support organizations whose leaders actively participate in community events, demonstrate a genuine commitment to the mission, and establish personal connections with stakeholders. Board members serve as ambassadors, representing the organization’s mission and values in the community. By engaging with potential donors on a personal level, board members can inspire trust and confidence, leading to increased financial support.

One such ambassador is Ned Haylett, who has served on the Thurston Woods Village board since 2016. “My job is to act as a connection,” says Haylett. “When I hear of an entity that would be a good connection for Thurston Woods Village, it’s my job to make sure that a meeting happens.”

Active board community engagement is a valuable asset for the CEO, offering insights into community dynamics, concerns, and aspirations. When board members are well-connected with the community, they bring a wealth of knowledge to the boardroom, enabling informed decision-making and strategic planning. Research published in the Harvard Business Review emphasizes the importance of a collaborative relationship between the CEO and board members, citing it as a fundamental factor in achieving organizational goals

Attending local events, participating in community forums, and establishing partnerships with other nonprofits are excellent ways to build connections. Creating a structured community engagement plan within the board’s responsibilities ensures a consistent and intentional approach. Assigning specific community engagement roles to board members, such as liaising with local stakeholders or leading outreach initiatives, can further amplify the impact.

By recognizing the interconnectedness of community engagement and board responsibilities, board members can elevate the organization’s impact, strengthen donor relationships, and contribute to the long-term sustainability of the nonprofit sector.



Stanford Social Innovation Review, “How Nonprofit Boards Can Be Great at Fundraising”

Harvard Business Review, “What Makes Great Boards Great”