Note:If you are working your way through the 9 Action Steps to a Successful Nonprofit, this article will help you with Step 1.
Congratulations! You are at the point you need to build a Board of Directors. You may not know the nuts and bolts of Board recruitment- much less a great Board. So what do you do? How do you recruit? Today, I’m talking about what you need to do before you begin recruiting, what to do while you are recruiting and a little section I call To Infinity and Beyond (or just next year).
Before You Recruit
You can’t get to where you want to go without knowing where you are. The same is true for Boards. Sit down and decide what your organization’s needs are. Ask yourself these important questions:
- What are the three most important things for our board to accomplish this year?
- And do we have the right people on the board to make that happen?
- What does your nonprofit need to advance its mission right now and in the future?
- A board member with financial expertise?
- Connections in the community?
- Someone familiar with the individuals served by the nonprofit?
Now determine what talents you already have. If you have one or two people who have said yes, use a Board matrix to figure out what you have. A Board matrix is a spreadsheet that will list the qualities and demographics you are looking for along the left hand side and the board members and prospects across the top. It helps you visually see where you need reinforcements. I like this spreadsheet. I want to caution: Use this as a tool and don’t get caught up with just skills. Temperament and mindsets are important qualities for a Board member.
Speaking of mindsets, what are some you may want to consider? Here are eight.
- Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness (even when no one is looking). You want to know your Board is above reproach and you can easily be transparent.
- A need for excellence is important because you want an organization that focuses on excellence. You won’t get there if your Board doesn’t value excellence.
- A passion for mission and organization, which will lend itself to a commitment to the mission and loyalty to the organization, will keep your Board member engaged. These mindsets will also be important when you have to roll your sleeves up and get things done.
- Positive Attitude will help when challenges arise. And let’s face it, it’s much more pleasant to be around someone with a positive attitude.
- They donate and ask others to give. Where your treasure lies, so does your heart. Members need to be givers before they are on the Board (if possible). If they donate to your organization before they are Board members, then you already know they donate and are passionate about your mission. They need to be able to ask others to give. You want Board members who are asking their friends to support your cause. You will need to take Board members with you to meet potential donors at some point and want to know you can count on them.
- They exercise sound business judgement. I believe nonprofits should operate as a passionate business, never losing focus on the compassion they have for the people they serve. You need sound business judgement to operate a passionate business.
- They attend meetings and are prepared. Boards can’t do their work if members don’t attend meetings. It slows progress and stunts the organization’s growth. Board members need to be prepared to discuss and vote at Board meetings. Make sure the agenda, minutes, and any other materials are in their hands with ample time to review to avoid an obstacle to their being prepared.
- They recruit. A passionate Board member will naturally look for people to be part of the organization because they enjoy it so much or believe in the mission deeply. They should be alerting you to potential Board members on a regular basis.
Now that you know the skill set and mindsets you need, it’s time to make a list. If you are just starting out, keep in mind these ideas. Find people who understand your mission area and are familiar with your client and their needs. If you are dependent on outside funding, involve someone who can assist in developing a fundraising plan. You need someone who is technologically savvy if you are working the 9 Step Action Guide. You want to keep your group dynamics in mind. Ask yourself, “ Is this a group of people who can work as a team?”
Where Do You Find Board Members?
Start from within by putting on your list people you know that might want to make a difference through your cause. Those closest to you may share your passion for your mission. Look at Local Businesses. You need someone with business experience to help get your nonprofit up and running or just keeping it moving. Who better than a business owner to help? Get Referrals. Ask people in your inner circle if they know anyone who meets the skill set or mindset you need. You can also advertise on social media or in the newspaper to broaden your net. I have a free Find a Board Member Resource List for you.
Potential Board Member Decision Package
Potential Board Member Decision Package is the next step in prepping for your recruitment. This package will make your expectations and a Board member’s job clear. It will help your potential Board member make the decision to join your Board. Make sure you print your package out and put in an envelope or folder. The reason? It will help keep you top of mind when they look at the package as opposed to having to go online or open a file on their computer.
Contents of the Package
- Overview of the Organization (3-5 sentence paragraph)
- Mission, Vision, Values
- Our Impact
- Quick Stats
- A short summary of your plan for the year.
- The Board of Directors
- Responsibilities (Job Description)
- Board Member Expectations
- Board Member Agreement
- Conflict of Interest Statement
- List of Current Board Members (leave out if you don’t have any)
- Time Commitment
- Meeting Schedule
- Selection Process (What’s Next)
I’ve made it easy and put together a free Potential Board Member Decision Package template for you to use.
What do you do if, after seeing this document, your potential Board member doesn’t want to join? Thank them and move on. You want people who know what they are getting in to and are willing to commit to it.
During Your Recruitment Meeting
Have this meeting in comfortable surroundings. Your goal is to figure out if this person is right for your organization and answer any of their questions. What questions should you ask? Here are five.
- What do you know about our organization? Why are you interested in committing your time and energy to me? You want to see their passion here.
- What do you think are the characteristics of a great board member?
- Fundraising is a significant obligation of board service (state what they will give/get clearly). Can you tell me about your experience in fundraising? Ask what the Fundraising they did looked like. Selling Girl Scout Cookies for their daughter or cookie dough for their child’s school is not what you are looking for here. You want to know the kinds of fundraising they have done. Have they fundraised for a cause before?
- Would you be willing to attend a lunch with the Founder or other Board Member in which the goal was to make a major donor ask? How comfortable are you with asking businesses for In-Kind donations? You are looking for comfort level here. Are they comfortable asking for donations of all kinds?
- Board members bring experience, wisdom, strategic thinking, and their rolodexes. Can you tell me about yours? You are looking to see what they bring to the table and their level of commitment to the organization.
- What kind of autonomy do you have over your calendar? There will be meetings between board meetings, occasional donor lunches. Will they have the time (or make the time) for the organization during the day?
There is no right or wrong answers to these questions. They just help you gauge the person’s skill set and mindset.
Make sure you share your mission and vision. Tell your Big Why story. Be consistent when you talk to people. There is nothing worse than a Board member finding out that the mission and vision they signed on for isn’t what others signed on for. It also makes a Board not able to steer the organization in the same direction.
Make sure you give them the Potential Board Member Decision Package. Go over the package with them pointing out the expectations and time commitment in particular. Let them take the package with them to review.
Let them ask you questions. Make sure you answer all their questions.
Explain the Next Steps. Next steps depend on the organization’s Board member recruitment process. These steps may include a date and time you will call them to ask them for their decision; the application process; and approval of the Board.
After Recruitment Meeting
Make sure you follow up when you say you will. Once the potential Board member has accepted and filled out the application, they will need to be approved by the Board. Schedule the vote for the next meeting. Next, schedule an Orientation. Having a Board Orientation time will help you in retention and assimilation into the group.
To Infinity and Beyond (or just next year)
Create a Board Resource and Development Committee (AKA Board Development and Governance) to manage the recruitment process all year long. This committee will have the responsibility of keeping the pipeline full with potential members. Here is the definition of the committee.
Board Development and Governance
The Board Development or Governance Committee is often a standing committee that oversees the identification, recruitment, orientation, training, and retention of board members. This committee looks for opportunities to strengthen and evolve the board’s effectiveness, capacity, composition, and ability to lead the organization into the future.
Term: Standing- Standing Committees are established on a permanent basis. These committees analyze issues within their areas of jurisdiction and make recommendations to the board. A standing committee also monitors and evaluates the performance of the whole organization in relation to its responsibility.
Now it’s time to get to work and get your great Board recruited!
If you want more help with the 9 Step Action Guide or recruiting a Board, check out my Facebook Group At the Top: Small Nonprofit Leaders to find more information and interact with other Founders, Board members, and Executive Directors.