In times of turmoil, your board of directors should be your not-for-profit’s rock-solid foundation. But what if your board is understaffed or simply doesn’t provide the leadership your nonprofit requires? Think about rebuilding it — and the sooner the better. Financial, public health and other challenges are likely to remain a reality for the foreseeable future.
Assess what you have
Start the rebuilding effort by assessing your current board. Ask the following questions:
Does the board have too few, too many or the right number of members? The right board size depends on many factors, including your organization’s size and complexity of operations.
Does its makeup represent a range of diversity and inclusiveness? Diversity can cover gender, race, religion, geography, age, expertise and other factors. Inclusiveness is how well the board’s makeup mirrors your organization’s mission.
How does each member align with your nonprofit’s mission? Ask members to provide personal statements that define their passion for your cause and your nonprofit’s specific approach to the cause.
How does each member contribute? Some nonprofits ask board members to sign contracts outlining their commitment — including the time they’ll commit, the funds they promise to donate or raise, and the duties they’ll perform. If you choose to have your board members sign such a contract, you’ll want to make sure they hold up their end of the bargain.
Before recruiting new members, identify the talents your organization needs — for example financial expertise or local government experience. In general, qualified board members are enthusiastic about your mission, are good team players and are willing to commit the time to attend all or most board functions. Good communications and public speaking skills are desirable.
Find qualified candidates
Just as you would for a paid leadership position, assemble a pool of candidates for each board seat. In many organizations, current board members supply candidates’ names. If you’re finding it difficult to find the right people, try these strategies:
- When making public appearances, mention that you’re looking for people interested in becoming active volunteers or board members.
- Ask friends, business colleagues and family members whether they know someone who would be a good candidate.
- Advertise in a local newspaper, alumni newsletter and your nonprofit’s newsletter.
- Consider whether any current volunteers are qualified to serve as board members.
- Invite 20 community leaders to an informational luncheon to learn about your organization and ask each to recommend a potential board member.
After you’ve identified a group of prospective candidates, have each fill out an application that outlines at least some of your expectations. Also invite prospects to attend a board meeting to meet current members, see how the board functions, and be interviewed one-on-one.
We highly recommend you confer with your Miller Kaplan advisor to understand your specific situation and how this may impact you.