|A recent survey on the performance of nonprofit boards reports that 98 percent of nonprofits believe their boards have the potential to improve; specifically, in their capacity to obtain donors and other resources, collaborate with the community, and be engaged in fundraising and committee assignments.A key ingredient to any successful nonprofit is a high-performing board of directors. But finding the right board members for your organization is no easy task—in fact, some might even say it is an art. Developing a board that is effective, impactful and accountable can be the difference between making it and breaking it for your organization. For more information on how to identify and recruit effective board members, read on.|
Composing an effective board of directors
A board composed of the right people with the right skills can help your organization achieve its strategic goals. Below are some points to consider when taking on new board members.
- Recruit for diversity: Composing a board diverse in race, ethnicity, gender and geography can bring a broad range of thought and perspective to the organization. And of equal importance is finding board members diverse in perspective and thought.
- Recruit for responsibility: Be sure recruits have the necessary skills to fulfill the fundamental financial and legal responsibilities of a board. The ability to approve financial plans, monitor financial health, orchestrate audits and manage risks are amongst the top must-have skills.
- Recruit for passion: Recruit those who clearly demonstrate passion for your mission. This can be in the form of previous board or volunteer experience with a similar organization or a belief in the value your organization provides. A passionate board member will be more likely to stand up and take action to advance the group’s mission. Reach out to those who are already involved with your organization and get the word out that you’re looking for board members with the means to further your cause. Send current supporters magnets or Post-it® Notes imprinted with a recruitment message in mailers.
- Recruit those with time: Oftentimes, potential board members have the best intentions of serving your organization—that is until they realize they just don’t have the time needed to be effective. Don’t be afraid to ask seemingly busy recruits if they have the time available to dedicate to your cause. It is estimated that for the mid-sized, average board, a commitment of 75-100 hours per year is average. At minimum, this means preparing for and attending four board meetings and serving on at least one committee. Supplying calendars that outline board meetings and important upcoming events can be a great way to illustrate to candidates the time commitment needed to best serve your organization.
- Recruit for a cultural fit: Whether or not a recruit would be a cultural fit with your board should not be overlooked. Make sure candidates will add to, rather than detract from, the positive dynamic of your board and assess how you think they will get along with the rest of the group. Make recruitment a team process—debrief the rest of the board after meeting with a candidate and discuss whether or not you think he or she is a fit and what role you see that person playing.
Communicate your expectations
Once you’ve found a candidate who may be a good fit with your organization, you’ll want to be sure you clearly communicate your expectations. A document sometimes called a statement of commitment or statement of understanding should be provided to, and agreed upon, by new board members. Be sure the agreement details what the organization expects in terms of advocacy, leadership, time commitment and even financial support. The document should also outline any commitments the organization is making to its board, including giving appropriate recognition, using time wisely and providing leadership opportunities within the organization. It may also be nice to provide a leather padfolio and a nice pen imprinted with the organization’s logo and mission—this serves as a lovely welcome gift and a great reminder of what your organization is all about.
We hope that you’ve picked up a few tips on recruiting high-performing board members. A board member who is passionate about your cause, a good cultural fit and knowledgeable about what is expected will have a greater impact on your organization and its mission.
“Nonprofit Board Performance Survey.” Jodidavis.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.
“Recruiting and Vetting Nonprofit Board Members.” Bridgespan.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013.