How to appear smart on a not-for-profit board

Looking smarty is much easier than becoming smart. Here are some tongue-in-cheek tricks to make you look good.

1. Show your superior knowledge

Wait for someone to make a generalisation. Then say "Yes, but not in the south." To head off any further questions, add "I mean, it's not that important in this case, but ..."

2. Show off your new media chops

When anybody makes a suggestion of any kind, say "How does that dovetail with our strategy on social media?"

3. Rub it in

If anyone else mentions social media, say "I think our target demographic is more Twitter than Instagram, don't you?" Feed in new applications as appropriate. If you can't think of one, make one up - Ftzbyg, say, or Simony. Nobody will call your bluff for fear of being thought out of date.

4. Hard boil it

Bleeding hearts have a love-hate relationship with cynical realists. Tell the meeting, "Don't tell them about the problem - if you talk statistics, your donations drop by 23%. Don't give the broad picture - if you feature two people in the photo, rather than just one, your take drops by another 37%. Give them a big-eyed poster child who's just had a slice of cake taken away from her and watch the money roll in." (Somewhat depressingly, this is broadly correct)

5. Bleeding heart it

Cynical realists have a love-hate relationship with bleeding hearts. Tell the meeting, "Yes, I can see that that's going to make money. But if we're just about the money, what are we for?" (For extra credit, use both 4 and 5 in the same meeting.)

6. Politically correct their wording

If you run a donkey rescue facility, for example, wait till someone refers to "a lame donkey" and interrupt to say, "I'm sorry to be picky, but I think that's 'a donkey with lameness', isn't it? We don't want to stereotype them."

7. Skype yourself into the meeting

This shows that you're technosavvy and your time is valuable. (Only use this strategy if you have at least one confederate at the meeting; otherwise, it's too easy for an adversary to kick your plug out before the vital vote.)

8. Ask how the item fits with the plan

Your organisation should have a strategic plan, a business plan, a fundraising plan, a marketing plan, and a risk management plan (at least). Ask about one that nobody's looked at for several years. This not only makes you look on top of the brief but can successfully derail almost any unwanted initiative.

9. Use leverage

If your board has nine people on it, five is a working majority, so five of you should meet up for a few minutes before the meeting and fix things. And three of those five should have agreed on the phone before that. And you should have squared your mate Greg to vote with you before then. If everybody remembers their lines, the meeting should go swimmingly.

10. Write the minutes yourself.

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