Building a Better Board (part 2)
One of our blog subscribers, and founder of a non-profit, has generously contributed the following board development advice.
Recruiting New Board Members
- Make room for new ideas and approaches. New recruits who hear “we’ve always done it this way” will give up, leaving you back where you started.
- Show new recruits your enthusiasm. You want them to see the best of what your organization can do, not a doom-and-gloom plea to save a sinking ship. If you’re discouraged, fake it.
Sometimes affiliate board members feel so desperate that they will take any warm body who offers to be on the board. If you treat it like a task no one would want, you’re not going to attract the kind of people who are going to create an effective board. Work on your mindset; remind yourself of your institution’s mission and potential, and move forward with the thought that it’s an honor to be invited to serve on your board.
If you truly think your board is in a bad state and you’re embarrassed to ask anyone you respect to join, you can say “I even feel guilty asking someone like you to join a board that’s as weak and confused as this one. But this organization has a unique role to play. What’s really needed is a total overhaul of our board. I’d like you to work with me, two others of the same mind, and the institution’s director to recruit six new members and really make this board work. Would you join me in that effort?”
- Form a recruiting task force. Sit with your board and make a list of 20 well-connected people of the type you would love to have on your board but who you figure wouldn’t do it (but who might know someone who would). Call them and invite them to come to a single meeting. Tell them that you will be describing your institution’s mission, services and potential and what you’re looking for in board members. Assure them that at the end of the meeting they’ll be asked simply for the name of one person they think would be a good board member. For the meeting, prepare a short presentation about your institution and end with the funniest and/or most touching story you can come up with that will convey your enthusiasm. If you’re lucky, one of the guests might actually end up agreeing to be on the board. At minimum, you will walk away with the names of a bunch of potential board members. The next day call each one and start by telling them who nominated them.
- Post “Great Board Member Wanted” ad on free websites that match people seeking boards to join with nonprofits seeking board members. If your local community has a website with this type of service, try it.
- Place additional ads on bulletin boards, in your newsletter, in the neighborhood newspaper, in the alumni newsletter of a local college, etc. Example: “We’re looking for a few talented and conscientious volunteer board members to lead and strengthen our institution. If you can contribute your time, thoughtfulness, and leadership one evening a month and are interested in exploring this opportunity, please call… or email us at… to find out whether this volunteer opportunity is right for you. We’re especially looking for folks with experience with ____ and ____.”
- Swinging board members: Pick a few local non-profit organizations, preferably of a similar size to yours. Call and invite a leader to coffee with a couple of your board members and suggest that your two organizations recommend “retiring” board members to each other as a way of establishing organizational links and strengthening ties among communities.
How to Ask: Most people who have served on a nonprofit board know what they are doing and why they want to do it. However, you may have your eye on someone with no board experience. This is what you want to impart:
- Our institution needs to improve and will benefit from your skills and contributions.
- You have the potential to effect change and have an impact.
- You will enjoy collaborating with interesting people who have the same values.
- You can learn new skills.
- You will be recognized for your efforts.
- Your board service will be a way to give back to the community.
- Our group interactions and/or institutional activities are fun!
Happy board building!