From Sheree Anne

Getting Board Buy-In on Big Initiatives


All organizations need to change and adapt to remain viable and impactful. Sometimes you know where you need to go, whether it’s a community visioning project, bold new workforce initiative or major investment to grow your chamber and help your community. Getting your board of directors to see your vision is sometimes simple. Other times, it takes as much work as the initiative itself.

Having spent a lot of time talking with chamber executives about board relations and hearing success stories from across the country and around the world, here are some of the best tips we’ve uncovered to help sell your vision to your board:

Engage them
You can alleviate fears and proactively address questions if you ask for input and engagement, early and often. You don’t have to co-create every aspect of a plan, but your board can help test concepts and share thoughts on how you can spread your idea community wide.

Find a board champion
Research shows peers listen to peers. If one of the most trusted and liked board members becomes a vocal champion, or even sells your idea, it’s more likely to get traction.

It’s easier to support examples tested in the real world
Find a chamber of a similar size or in a relatable community that experienced success with what you’re trying to accomplish. By showing a tangible win, board members can envision the same success in your community.

Pitch your idea as a solution to a problem
Long known in the sales profession, it’s easier to sell a solution than a product. The same goes for ideas. When you position your proposal as solving one of the greatest problems your members or community face, it’s easier to understand the ROI of the effort.

Frame resources and expectations transparently
Fear often drives resistance to new ideas. How much money and manpower will this require? What’s needed each quarter for the duration of the initiative? What will the ROI be, and when will we start to see it? What are the potential risks, and how will we mitigate the impact of those risks? Share specifics to show the detailed planning from your team.

You can’t overcommunicate
You’ve heard that people need to hear a message as many as seven times to remember it. If you’ve ever said, “I already told them that!” then you know it’s true. Consider reiterating your message via many formats – outline it in emails, reference it in written board materials, visually represent it in a slideshow or video, verbally share it in reports, then reinforce the message by having another presenter mirror your comments. Even send a recap in a summary note.

Offer progress updates and share successes (even small ones)
Keep your board regularly updated on progress. Even if nothing has happened, explain why that’s the case and when to anticipate a change. It’s easy to go on to the next to-do item, but take the time to share and celebrate successes. It’s one of the easiest ways to show leadership that your efforts are working.

Boards trust individuals who engage them, are transparent and have a track record of success. How have you successfully sold a big idea to your board? I’d love to hear about it.

And I’d be happy to brainstorm with you if you’re just starting to think about a new, big idea. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime at or 703.998.3540.
-Sheree Anne

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