Board Ts and Ts

Within the nonprofit sector, three words – time, talent, and treasure (sometimes restated as work, wisdom, and wealth) – are used as a short-hand definition of board members’ contributions to mission fulfillment with economic vitality. And for good reason. The word trio describes to a “t” what organizational heads want from the individuals sitting around the board table.multiple_signs_custom_13406

However, the triad falls short in identifying the why that brings good-hearted volunteers to their board seats. For that, I point you to three other t words, these from an e-newsletter emanating from Luther Seminary’s Center for Stewardship Leaders. The words are thanksgiving, trust, and transformation.

Okay, so the article is about congregational stewardship. But for me, the three words work just as well when applied to board member motivation.  Stick with me and see if you agree.


Thanksgiving. More often than not, board service is grounded in the members’ appreciation for what the organization contributes to a community or cause about which they care deeply. I think, for example, of seminary trustees who speak with gratitude for how the school serves their churches, the member of a hospital board whose spouse received exemplary care, or former campers who’ve stepped up as board leaders. Governance is a gift often given in return for gifts received by board members themselves or others who matter to them.

Trust. It’s a big deal that board members voluntarily put their reputations, networks, and resources on the line for an organization – something ministry heads need to understand and appreciate. Saying yes to board service is a leap of faith that promises made in the recruitment promise will be met. Woe to the organization that breaks trust with board members. Once lost, it is hard to restore.

Transformation. Most people join a board because they want to be part of making the world (or at least a corner of it) a better place. They are eager to contribute to change, to seeing “old things made new.” In other words, to being part of transformation. The best board members are quickly bored by the status quo. They’re known to push and prod, sometimes to the discomfort of the CEO and ministry staff, but always for the good of the mission.

Honor the three Ts that drive board members’ service and time, talent, and treasure will follow. I promise.

For more boards and board member motivation, see:

Re-visioning nonprofit boards as innovators and change agents

When building a board, look for the helpers

When your board comes to a fork in the road . . .



  1. I agree that the triad of “Ts” falls short in identifying the “why” that brings good volunteers to a Board. International Ministries now uses a grid of criteria to guide the identification of potential new Board directors, the first of which is an identified passion for the cause of mission. All of our current directors indicate this as one of the things they bring to the Board. I find it hard to imagine our Board Development Committee recommending the election of any new director who did not give evidence of that “why.”

    • Thank you, Reid, for reminding us that greatest gift and primary motivation that board members bring to any organization — and especially those with a faith base — is their passion for the mission. That’s what keeps them going when times are tough and it’s what inspires amazing contributions of time, talent, and treasure.

What's your take on this topic?

%d bloggers like this: