Practicing the art of governance as evangelism

Stop the presses on the latest run of board member business cards. There’s a word to add to the title line, and this it is — “evangelist.”

pull_em_in_magnet_12547If the moniker strikes you as too preachy for a 21st century audience, think again. The suggestion is ripped from the pages of the May 2015 Harvard Business Review and Guy Kawasaki’s 3-point sermon in defense of the “art of evangelism.”

Here’s the definition of the term according to Kawasaki,

“Derived from a Greek word that means, roughly, ‘to proclaim good news,’ evangelism is explaining to the world how your product or service can improve people’s lives.”

and his description of what happens when leaders act as evangelists.

“When you become an effective evangelist, you set an example for other employees. You show that you are a passionate, engaged team member. You inspire your colleagues. And you demonstrate your leadership ability.”

Okay, so Kawasaki, who carries the title of chief evangelist at Canva, writes with business execs in mind. But it’s less than a stretch to read nonprofit board members into his article. After all, board members are leaders, too. And as leaders, they “should evangelize for the organization and what it has to offer . . . and feel comfortable playing this role.”

If Kawasaki’s words ring familiar to you, great. You’ve been listening as boards are regularly encouraged to advocate for – to speak up and out on behalf of – the organizations which they serve. However, Kawasaki goes a crucial step further by providing leaders with three ways to effectively evangelize.


The first of Kawasaki’s three strategies for leaders as evangelists is schmoozing, “the process of building social connections.” Not for your own aggrandizement, however, but for the good of the organization and of the ones with whom you speak. Remember, you come with good news, but don’t hog the air time. As Kawasaki explains, “Good schmoozers don’t dominate the conversation. They initiate it and then shut up and listen.”

Kawasaki’s second strategy moves from personal evangelism to mass appeals via public speaking. Although not every board member will excel as a sage on a stage, at least some are comfortable speaking in front of groups. Search them out and send them forth with the organization’s message in hand. “Speech making is an important part of evangelism because it pushes you to develop a coherent message and to spread it to large audiences.”

Finally and third is social media. “Today, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter make evangelism fast, free, and ubiquitous,” Kawasaki notes. As board members (and others) go virtual with their messaging, the organization’s reach expands exponentially.

One-to-one, in groups, or online, evangelizing for your organization is “a responsibility – and an opportunity – that falls to everyone.” Including the board. “So build these skills little by little,” Kawasaki urges. “Start with one act of evangelism a week and work your way up to several a day. Remember, that this is an art – and keep practicing.”

Talk back: Do your board members have the information they need to be effective evangelists for your organization? If your answer is yes, share your strategies for evangelism training with Generous Matters reader. If no, what one act of evangelism might you suggest to get board members moving?


  1. Great exercise to get board members talking about why they care
    5 min video explains how it’s done
    Used this last week and it was very meaningful

    • Thank you for the great suggestion, Lori. I subscribe to Monday Morning videos but I missed this great one on pulling board mbers into fundraising and organizational advocacy via their own stories.

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