How can board members stay connected across time zones and significant distances?

As families grow, geographic dispersion of family and board members will become a common challenge. Each and every family must figure out a strategy that is right for you.

Kelly Nowlin, family trustee of the Surdna Foundation, suggests the following, “The executive director or president of the foundation can make trips to dispersed board members and schedule one-on-one time to get in depth feedback regarding the strategies and the programs of the board. This creates the opportunity for a much higher level of engagement. At the Surdna foundation, the president conducts these visits during the summer time. It provides an opportunity for us to talk about the family philanthropy. I always feel more connected after these visits.”

If your foundation doesn’t have the staff capacity or budget to make personal visits, Kelly offers another great strategy. “When you reach out to the extended family, don’t limit your communications to strictly foundation business. One great way to engage family members is by including their voices in the foundation’s communications. We do this in a newsletter spotlight where we rotate the different family branches and share their stories. We interview different family members about their experiences with the foundation, which makes it so much easier to connect with others than simply writing everything with the official foundation voice.”     

Some families may find that a newsletter, a Facebook group, or a listserv can keep family members in the loop. Others may consider opening their geographical funding areas to new cities or countries where family members live.

If dispersion is something your family faces, check out our recent webinar on these topic, as well as additional featured resources referenced below.