Lisa Petrilli

Flushable diapers have something to teach us about developing board members of nonprofit organizations into empowered advocates. I’m going to tell you:

  • How to magnify your community outreach
  • Why your board members should be the first line of empowered advocates
  • How to make empowered advocates out of your board members

Now I’m not convinced flushable diapers exist (they seem to violate the laws of low-flow toilet physics), but marketing expert Lisa Petrilli cites gDiapers as a company capitalizing on the “magnifying power of empowerment.” Lisa was talking about for-profit companies in a talk for the Lincoln AMA, but I’m going to transfer her insights to the nonprofit world for you.

Magnify your community outreach

Nonprofits can magnify their community outreach through:

  • Empowered advocates who …
  • Spread the message to new advocates, creating …
  • A community of advocates participating in networks that friends and families trust.

That’s Lisa’s “magnifying power of empowering” model, and she cites the gMums/gDads community of flushable diaper enthusiasts (there’s an unusual appellation!). But where to start at your nonprofit?

First-line advocates: Your board members

Do you want empowered advocates magnifying your community outreach? (You should.) Start with your board.

Your board members are your first line of communication with your community, and you need them to be “on” all the time, spreading your message. But one of the key reasons board members aren’t “on” (enthusiastically participating in board work and spreading the good news) is disengagement, and disengagement springs in part from a lack of empowerment.

Empower board members as advocates

How to make board members into empowered advocates? Here’s part of Lisa’s checklist for empowering customers as brand enthusiasts, which I argue apply to nonprofit boards:

  1. Love them back. If you’re asking a busy, talented person to love your organization through significant investments of time, talents, and treasure, love them back with meaningful work. You can start by involving everyone in strategic thinking.
  2. Empower them. Trust drives empowerment and leads to real relationships between your empowered advocates and community members who aren’t yet empowered advocates (but whom we hope will be soon). So trust your board members. For ideas to get you started, here’s a case study of how the nonprofit MAHA Festival trusts and empowers its event marketing committee members.
  3. Enable them to be stewards of your message. This starts with stories, because stories are memorable, they articulate your values, and they beget more stories. If your board members aren’t good story tellers, train them and coach them.

What success stories and tips do you have about empowering your board members as advocates?