Answer: Bear Witness. Tell the Story. Take Action.
This has been my advice to board members whom I have trained and placed on nonprofit boards for many years, but it takes on greater importance in today’s environment for two reasons: first, the tough economy which makes fundraising more challenging for nonprofits, and second, the increasing demand from funders for nonprofits to measure their impact in serving the community.
I was reminded of this advice last week during a program I organized and facilitated for the Carnegie Council on “Serving on a Nonprofit Board: Opportunities, Qualifications, and Expectations.” A member of the audience who had just attended a conference on measurement asked what boards and funders should expect with regard to metrics in understanding what the organization is achieving.
Most striking was the response from Karthik Krishnan, Vice President, Reed Business Interactive, and Board Member, East River Development Alliance (ERDA). With his business background and MBA, Krishnan certainly had a healthy appreciation of the value of hard numbers. But he also underscored that in fundraising among corporations, foundations, and his friends, his value as an advocate for ERDA is that he has walked through the public housing neighborhoods served by ERDA and met the families and children who have benefited from the ERDA programs. Krishnan has toured the community side by side with Bishop Mitchell Taylor, Founder and CEO, ERDA.
Numbers are metrics in service of a story. They don’t replace the eyes, ears, and voices of board members.