By: Melissa Lagowski
Big Buzz Idea Group
We regularly hear from nonprofits that their Board of Directors or certain members are not carrying their fair share of the weight. The biggest concern is leadership not delivering on their Board commitments and sometimes they aren’t even showing up to the organization’s events.
But imagine the flipside: What if each Board member actively engaged with your organization? What if every Board member met their give-or-get requirements and took their fiduciary responsibilities more seriously? What if every Board member actively served and supported your nonprofit with shared vision and commitment toward achieving goals and success?
It is possible to create a dream team by following these six tips to securing the Board Members you need to succeed.
Identify Key Talents
An effective board is made up of a team from a variety of industries and traits so it is important to identify what your association needs to achieve maximum success. For example, a lawyer and an accountant are requisite savvy advisors that review your work and relevant discussions through a professional lens, ensuring that you are adhering to regulations and rules that keep your nonprofit in compliance. Most organizations also want someone with marketing expertise. Perhaps you need someone with local legislative experience or other specific representation depending on your mission.
Once you have decided which professionals should be on your team, think about other traits and talents that would benefit your association. It may be advantageous to have a strategic thinker, an innovative thinker, etc. A well-rounded blend of professions and different types of talents will provide for robust conversations to ensure the advancement and growth of your organization.
Search for Devotion to Your Mission
Once you identify the types of people you want on your board, it is important to identify why each candidate wants to serve in this role for your organization. Too often, professionals may just be filling a corporate obligation, or they might have a hidden agenda. But when you can identify that a qualified Board candidate has passion for your cause, you are going to find a more engaged participant.
Ideal Board candidates should already have a history with your organization. They will have a story about why they think what you do matters, and they will have ideas about how to contribute. Develop a list of interview questions that help confirm why a candidate wants to serve, and you will secure more devoted players for your team.
Confirm Candidates Have the Time
You’ll sometimes have well-meaning people who want to participate but they just can’t commit the time that is needed to be a good steward for your organization. Be clear about how much time it takes to meet the obligations expected of each Board Member and explain this expectation in the interview. Discuss the day and time of routine meetings and outline the annual calendar of events to ensure that nothing on their calendar conflicts with the standing calendar. This will help set you up for success on the back end.
Organizations must have an emphasis to embrace diversity in leadership in order to foster diversity in the nonprofit. Diversity may look different for each nonprofit, but it is typically a combination of gender, race and ethnicity. Other organizations might want to identify members of various service sectors (i.e., clinician, client, admin or independent businesses and big box businesses) or geographical representation for various service areas. Having representatives with different perspectives will help your organization think about problems and solutions through a variety of viewpoints to ensure that your decisions better serve the audience you serve.
Set Clear Expectations
Be sure that your organization has defined a clear list of expectations about what it means to be a Board Member. Outline as many of the details for the term as you can so that a candidate knows exactly what they are committing to without any surprises later. Effective communication is a large part of ensuring success, and by defining the terms, it helps you hold each member to the same standards.
Items to consider might be as follows:
- Number of Board Meetings each year
- Number of allowed absences
- Organizational events they are expected to attend
- Events where they need to purchase tickets or tables
- Fundraising expectations including any give/get requirements
- Member recruitment
- Program recruitment
- Committee participation
It is important that you look at each Board Member’s ability to contribute. Set up policies to handle situations where a Board Member is falling short so guidelines are in place and determine possible solutions to resolve any shortcomings before they happen.
Sometimes you have to balance the value of a reliable participant – one who successfully recruits the most members for your organization but perhaps they are not strong at producing an out-of-pocket payment for the association.
Have a clear plan for accountability on Board expectations and be sure to follow up on performance of your team members regularly.
Evaluate the Candidates
Do not simply accept all applicants who apply for your Board without candid interviews and some thorough vetting. There are some boards that are so desperate for applicants that they will take anyone with a pulse. This type of desperation will never take your nonprofit where you want to go! The goal is to interview candidates to see if they are the right fit for your organization. If they do not fit into the needs of your Board, and they don’t have passion and commitment for your cause, what are they really going to contribute other than headaches for you? By spending time to find the “right fit” members for leadership, your organization will achieve much greater success.
The work of each nonprofit and association is extremely valuable in trying to best serve the mission of the organization. Be sure that the people you invite to the leadership table are the right fit, and you will be far more likely to build success for your organization.