Published: about 3 years ago by Lauren King.
During the fall All A-Board Alliance meet-up, discussion arose as to the role of a staff liaison. The panelists shared insight that demonstrated the value to the nonprofit organization, as well as the associate board. When I served as a staff liaison, I was new to the associate board world and thus had to learn lot along the way. Most distinctly, I learned that the role is multifaceted because the staff liaison is the bridge that connects the associate board to the agency. For me, this manifested in three distinct ways:
Appreciation: Everyone works harder when their efforts are recognized and appreciated, which seems especially true of volunteers. I made efforts to share thank-you notes from clients as well as congratulatory messages from staff. Also, because our staff and AB members didn’t often get to interact, I also made sure that I shared successes of the board with staff members so they could fully understand the work being done by the AB.
Logistical Support: A big part of my role was related to coordination for things such as providing space for meetings, sharing agency resources (copy machine, informational brochures, etc.), and storing supplies. Those are the types of supports that help the associate board run smoothly, since they typically don’t have their own resources. While it seems less important, to me this piece set the board up for success.
Mission Alignment: A staff liaison is also responsible for ensuring continuity between the AB and the nonprofit’s mission. Sometimes this is as simple as ensuring that marketing materials are appropriate. For example, if you are going to use the company’s name, you want to ensure that the official logo is being used. Equally important, it requires helping associate board members be effective ambassadors who can accurately describe the organization’s services and impact on the community. (To someone outside the agency, it can be easy to mix up tutoring services with educational evaluations).
Looking back, there are certainly things I wish I had done differently including integrating more structure so that delegation of responsibility was naturally spread among members, working to involve the Board of Directors with AB activities, and finding meaningful ways to connect AB members with staff. It’s clear to me now that a successful AB is contingent upon members staying motivated and feeling that their efforts are making a difference. While the role/approach may vary between different associate boards, overall I found the staff liaison to be a vital role.
About the Author: Lauren launched the Children’s Research Triangle Associate Board in 2010. Being new to the associate board world, she made it up as she went along (with the help of several very supportive friends and colleagues). Luckily it worked out, with only a few bumps along the way. As a co-founder of the All A-Board Alliance, she is excited to ensure others don’t have to make it up and instead can call upon each other for ideas and support. Full disclosure, she’s a bit of a board service enthusiast, so she may be just a little biased.