Experiential Learning

Board members are community members, however broadly or narrowly you define community, and they are passionate about your organization, its programs and services. Board members are sharing their time, wisdom, skills and much more with your organization on behalf of the community.

What if you offer board members new ways to tap their passions, re-energize, and increase community engagement with your organization? What if you take the often dreaded and always on fire “fundraising” topic off the table for a while and see what happens when you engage your board members in new ways?

In my work with an education foundation, we talked about the incredible programs and projects they make possible each year. Unless you are one of the teachers, students, parents, or funded organizations, there’s a good chance you have no sense of all the awesome this foundation sparks. The foundation’s grant committee reviews all grant applications, makes their recommendations to the full board, and they vote. The funds are distributed. Fast forward to the end of the school year and end of grant reports are submitted, highlighting the project’s success and showcasing the experiential learning opportunities that occurred all year long.

Board members acknowledged that they were removed from the projects and programs they make possible, and aren’t able to speak about them in much detail. They wanted to change that. If they didn’t feel connected to their mission in action, imagine the disconnect in the community. Board members remain passionate about providing local youth with experiential learning opportunities.


– What if board members embraced the value of experiential learning and applied it to themselves?
– What would it make possible if each board member stewards one grant throughout the year?
– What would be possible if each board member gets to know the teacher or program director associated with that grant and the students involved?
– What if a board member takes another community member along on a field trip to see the grant in action?

The foundation decided to try this approach for the current school year. Board members are simply and powerfully sharing their passions in action with another community member. In sharing that experience, relationships are strengthened, the community members get to know each other better, and ideas are sparked to build on the success of the existing program.

At future board meetings, board members can share their personal experience with everyone. Talk about an energizing, engaging and forward-facing conversation! The connections made through the field trips become ripples in the community far beyond the outing. And yes, dollars do follow when community members are honored, valued and engaged.

Consider shifting the conversation rooted in scarcity and competition (dollars) to a conversation of abundance (existing community resources and assets). When fundraising focuses solely on money, it comes from a place that there is never enough. Money is the means, and just one type of resource that buys the stuff needed to achieve the goal. Money is not the ends, but so often conversations spiral down into “if only we had more money…” Consider what would be possible if your community benefit organization had an abundance of every imaginable resource. Paint that picture, and aim your board’s conversation and energy at that.

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