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Friday, June 24, 2011

Attracting the Right Board Members - Amy

Over the weekend I put out a call on Facebook desperately asking for suggestions about what my friends would want to read about if they had to read about nonprofit board governance. One of my high school classmates graciously provided a couple of suggestions for me based on frustrations she has had in her own dealing with boards. There was one topic in particular that I thought many nonprofits could benefit from having some more information on – how to find and attract the right talent for your board. In my blogs I’ve talked about the importance of diversity and ethics on Boards. I think that it is a good point that in order to have a diverse board of ethical people, you need to make sure you are finding the right talent for you Board. For some Boards, this is easier said than done.

In order to attract the right talent for your Board, you need to first sit down and think about what you need. You may want to refer to my blog on Diversity and the different types of diversity to give you some ideas of the criteria you want to look at. You should compare the current Board members to what you would like the Board to look like and see where the gaps are. Do you need more females? Do you need an accountant or someone with strong marketing skills? Would it be helpful to have the perspective of someone that received services from the agency on your Board? After you have an idea of the skills you want your Board members to possess, you can begin searching for people to fill those roles.

You should also consider what expectations you have of your Board members (or wish to have). Is there an attendance requirement? Do they need to attend, plan, or staff fundraisers? When I was doing my interviews for my Board Assessment with the SPCA, one thing I found impressive was that the Board lets people know the expectations from the beginning. They did not tell their members we just want you on our Board, but explained that the meet monthly, that they were expected to be at 5 events a year, and that they are expected to donate to the organization. There is nothing worse than thinking you’ve found the right person for the job only to get them onboard and find out they don’t have the time to work with your organization.

Finally, you need to begin finding the people you’re looking for. Since you already know the professions or type of people you are looking for, you can begin to get names through networking. If you don’t have a strong professional network, you may want to try local groups for those professions such as the National Education Association if you’re looking for teachers or the local Bar Association for lawyers. I would also recommend looking at other groups that tend to attract professionals such as the Masons, NAACP, Rotary Club, Elks Lodge or the area Chamber of Commerce. The article regarding board development by the Council of Nonprofits also suggests contacting the United Way or community foundations that may have match programs available for you to use.

Once you’ve found the right person, remember that you may need to cultivate a relationship with them before actually inviting them onto the Board. Invite them to a meeting, give them a tour, or have lunch and let them ask you questions. Another aspect of the SPCA Board that I like is that the allow non-board member to sit on their committees. I think this is an excellent way to allow a potential member to learn more about your board, meet the members, learn the inner workings and decide whether they want to fully commit to your board. Finding the right person, and having that person successfully integrate with your board will be beneficial for the board and the organization for years to come.

For more information on board development, including assessment, orientation and training check out this article:

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