How To Find Nonprofit Board Members
May 12, 2016 Lynette Garet Business Basics 0 Comment
Nonprofit Boards: How to get effective members on your team
Board members bring individual skill sets, expertise and expectations to the table and each can contribute to or detract from your organization’s success. The key to building a strong, contributory board lies with the board itself–how they recruit new board members and their criteria for service.
A nonprofit board has a clearly defined role, which is not to micro-manage the staff. A strong board focuses on governing, not daily operations. Even the most well intentioned board member can stray into operational management. However, board members may not understand the nuances and complexities of staff interaction and office culture because their exposure to it is limited. A board that leaves daily management to the management is a board that will best support your nonprofit.
The make-up of an ideal nonprofit board is as varied as the organization it serves. Like “normal,” “ideal” depends upon who decides. Working on a nonprofit board is a bit like herding cats: It can be difficult to arrive at the desired endpoint in an organized manner. As a board, members need to agree on where your nonprofit is today, where it will be tomorrow and how it will arrive at its end goal.
A good board becomes a great board by addressing these points:
- Define a general type of potential board member. Every board member or prospective member must have an affinity for your nonprofit. One that is not committed, regardless of expertise or professional connections, takes the place of someone whose drive and passion could be a valuable addition to your nonprofit. The board must understand its current composition and its target composition. Is the cultural composition of your board one of creative or strategic planners, local residents or national personalities? Are current members experienced or influential in your nonprofit’s sphere of influence and skilled enough to sharpen strategies and goals?
- Identify the background, skills and expertise your board has now and will need in the future. Are there gaps in expertise; if so what are they and how can the gaps be filled? A nonprofit’s grantors and other funders–especially federal ones–look for diversity and inclusion in its board composition. Each member brings skills and experience to the table, whether it’s in technology, finance, human resources or fundraising. Racial, ethnic, gender and socio-economic characteristics of your nonprofit’s board members should reflect its target demographic, as well as the current movement toward a more inclusive society.
- Examine a board candidate’s fit with the culture of the current board, the nonprofit’s organization and staff and the future. The goal should be to enhance integration of skills, experience and personalities for a cooperative working relationship. An effective board speaks with one voice–to management, staff, donors, service partners and end users–to support the nonprofit’s mission and programs.
Tips for finding the right candidates:
The best policy is to recruit new board members as if it were a job … because it is a job.
Advertise board openings:
At public presentations, speeches, meetings and events
Within the nonprofit organizations in your community
In newsletters and on your website
Develop an application form asking:
Why the candidate wishes to serve?
What skills and experience the candidate has to offer?
What the candidate understands about the nonprofit and the board’s role?
How the candidate can contribute to the nonprofit’s mission and its programs?
Build an applicant pool for each vacancy–be clear that an application or willingness to serve is not a mere formality.
Define an “interview” process to review candidates, exactly as you would if hiring a job applicant. Again, willingness to serve is not the only criterion to meet.
A competent board will keep a nonprofit ticking over, hopefully without too much damage. However, a great board will guide and nurture its progress toward fulfilling its mission.