Renaming board committees

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names.”

The theme of the November Nonprofit Blog Carnival is abundance. Oranges

Moving from scarcity to abundance means we need to reframe how we see and think about our communities.

I worked at City Year many years ago. City Year’s founders embodied the abundance mindset. To instill that point of view in others, they skillfully deployed two powerful motivators: story and symbolism.

At City Year, what things were named really mattered – from programs to positions. And each implied a story.

For example, the middle school program that our corps members ran back then could have been called the “middle school afterschool program.” Or City Year’s middle school program.

Instead, it was called Young Heroes.

See the difference? If you were a tween or a potential sponsor, wouldn’t you consider signing up?

Recently I was working on the agenda for a board retreat designed to roll out the newly approved strategic plan. The CEO was eager to redo the committees during the retreat.

As we talked about how to do this, a light bulb went off in my head.

What if we gave our board committees new names. Names that captured the essence of the strategic plan goals.

Here’s what we came up with:

Renaming graphic.pdf - Adobe Reader 11282015 40209 PM

At first skeptical, board members soon warmed to the idea of new board committee names.

Why not. The particularly problematic Fundraising Committee lacked for members – fear of asking for money kept people away.

More folks could envision themselves serving on the “Inspiring our Community” Committee. They could see the work differently. They could even feel they could invite others to join.

With more volunteers, more focus on what they could do, they were inspired to reach out. An abundance mindset.

I’ll let you know how it goes. But from now on, I’m definitely recommending name changes.

P.S. If you’ve developed more engaging board committee names, please send them along. I know we are all interested in how this may have influenced their work.

Note: The quote which begins this post is usually attributed to Confucius. The actual saying by Confucius may be “If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.” (Zi Lu, 3)


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