Securing a board member that is committed, engaged, provides value through skills or expertise, contributes financially and has connections that do the same is like hitting the lottery for a nonprofit.
Just like matching your numbers to the daily Powerball drawing, having a board member meet all of those criteria is like a dream come true. If you’re a nonprofit looking to hit the Board jackpot, how can you play the odds?
Although it’s not as simple as plunking down a dollar and choosing your favorite numbers, setting your organization up to be a big winner in the Board of Directors game is more in your control. It just requires some planning, good solid question-asking and vetting on your part.
Before recruiting you need to do some legwork to assess if there are any gaps in skills, expertise and networks that you have within the current make-up of your board members. Using this Board Matrix can help you identify the areas where you have gaps.
During this planning process, it is important to remember to create a diversified and balanced board in terms of gender and ethnicity to ensure you have a variety of perspectives. Also, depending on your mission and/or who you serve, there may be a unique population you need to have represented. For example, if you serve domestic violence victims, it is important to have a survivor represented. Or if you have a mentoring program, you will want to include an alumni.
Once you have established the profile of who is needed to enhance your board you should prepare a well-articulated board member job description. This will help candidates assess their own ability to meet the needs of your organization. It is important to be transparent with both the time and financial commitments required and to reinforce these during any discussions you have with potential candidates. By clarifying roles and responsibilities from the start you allow candidates to have a clear picture of your organization’s expectations.
With your organizations' needs clearly understood, you can begin to prepare your list of prospects to interview. Your organization's CEO and Board Chair should both conduct interviews to ensure the interviewees are a good fit for the organization. This is a process to vet the candidates, not sell your organization to them. Just like in a job interview, the candidates should be the ones in the hot seat answering the questions.
Here’s some questions to consider during your interviews:
○ What draws you to our mission? Why are you passionate about this issue?
○ Why are you interested in taking a leadership role?
○ Do you have any personal experiences with our work that would provide you with unique perspectives on our client base?
○ What skills and expertise can you bring to the board?
○ Are you comfortable with engaging your network with our organization? For example, recruiting volunteers, inviting people to events and asking for financial support?
○ Are you prepared to fulfill the defined responsibilities of a board member (have the job description available)?
○ Our Board must have 100% giving participation each year. Are you prepared to make a personal financial contribution of $X?
○ What networks do you feel you could help make introductions to?
Of course, just as with a job interview, allowing the interviewee the opportunity to have their questions answered is important as well. Be sure to make time to provide any clarification they need in order to fully understand how they can best serve your organization.
Recently, Jeannine Gant, the CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit, shared her thoughts on board recruitment in the time of COVID-19 during our last webinar. Check out her advice here. Forward to 26 minutes into the recording to go straight to Jeannine's advice!
For personalized help with recruiting and training your board, contact Detroit Philanthropy to learn more about how we can help. We offer a variety of one-on-one consultations as well as group trainings.
About Rachel M. Decker
Having spent nearly 20 years in the nonprofit sector as an effective and strategic fundraising and foundation executive, Detroit Philanthropy Founder and President, Rachel Decker is passionate about helping others, making meaningful connections, solving problems and, most importantly, creating impact in our community. With the founding of Detroit Philanthropy, she turned that passion into a commitment to champion philanthropy throughout metro Detroit as a philanthropic advisor, fundraising consultant and speaker.