Six Tips for Netting Able Board Members
Many board members have had experience — on current or past boards — working with staff leadership in securing major gifts, as well as having been a part of executive searches. Nonprofit boards can learn from their own experiences with major gifts and executive search when recruiting new members to the board, and thus be better able to identify people with the skills necessary to assist with those tasks. Here are a few strategies to consider in recruiting volunteers:
1) Focus on top prospects. Much like major-gift work, use research and relationships to identify, cultivate and engage. Be prepared to wait (six to 18 months) to get the right board candidates to say yes to the opportunity. Remember, a properly recruited potential board member who says “no” now might very well make a significant contribution later on in the process.
2) Recruit from the top. It takes as much time and effort to recruit second-tier board members as it does the leaders you really want. Just like an executive-search consultant, create a pool of the most qualified candidates so you can compare and contrast before making an offer.
3) Test for commitment. If you have a qualified candidate but aren’t sure she’ll make your board a priority, ask if she’ll make your board one of her top three charities. Define her role in terms of time and financial commitment. If she says yes, she’s serious.
4) Feature examples of board responsibilities to illustrate your expectations. Downplay talking about the “role of the board,” as these discussions rarely motivate or communicate well.
5) Ditch the ad hoc nominating committee and create a standing leadership committee to focus on ongoing recruitment, orientation and retention as well as the traditional nominating function. Define the role of the chief advancement officer in the nominating process.
6) Create space for talented new recruits by offering under-performing current board members honorary roles, implementing term limits and parameters, and/or creating new board/structures with newly minted priorities.
William M. Weber, Ed.D., is president and co-founder of Brookline, Mass.-based Development Guild/DDI, providers of leadership and fundraising consulting services to nonprofits. He can be reached via www.developmentguild.com