Apply 'Draft Day' Principles When Recruiting Board Members
A dear friend recently gave me tickets to the Indianapolis Colts football game versus the New Orleans Saints in Indianapolis. I am a Colts fan, but also a fan of Drew Brees, quarterback for the Saints. Brees played at Purdue University in Indiana during his college career. Living in Indianapolis and a fan of both, I was in for a great game. Unfortunately, throughout most of the game New Orleans led 27-0. The Colts finally woke up, only to lose 27-21. I was sitting in the stands thinking about all of these great NFL players who were drafted by their respective teams. It made me think about board development and how we should draft volunteer “players” for the best nonprofit board possible.
The movie “Draft Day” starring Kevin Costner was a 2014 American sports-drama film directed by Ivan Reitman. The premise revolves around the general manager of the Cleveland Browns (Costner) deciding what to do when his team acquires the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Nonprofits, like NFL teams, should do research to see what volunteers—in the case of the NFL, players—can fill specific roles. When done very well, selection of player-volunteers can mean the difference between having an average board or an outstanding one. As an executive director—the general manager in a sports sense—have you ever thought of board recruitment as a draft-day scenario? If not, it is time to change to make a paradigm shift.
To ultimately succeed in fundraising for your organization, you must have a dynamic board with members who are interested and engaged in fundraising. This process is also impossible without careful recruiting, orientation and constant individual attention. As an individual charged with board development for your institution, you will need to analyze your current board. Do you have the players that can help you deliver financial results? Did you have a hand in drafting the volunteers needed to deliver success in time, talent and treasure? If not, board success begins with finding the right board members for your organization. It is as simple a finding individuals who have the attributes of wealth, work and wisdom.
You are now the general manager of your team. Look at your local nonprofit situation. See which organizations have the best boards. Do research with their executives and learn how they built their successful boards. Think about potential board member personalities in your community and those in positions that should be helpful to you in fundraising. These are people in sales, public relations, marketing, agencies, chamber work, real estate, bankers, financial planners, wives of wealth, full-time volunteers, executives—the list goes on and on. People you need to recruit should know the community and its players very well. They should know whom the members of the local country club and the big fish in small ponds are.
Become a mentee to a successful mentor—one who has become an expert in volunteer board development. Experts will tell you how to recruit, orient, sustain and motivate boards to achieve greater levels of success each year. A board must be dynamic, not static, and volunteer board members lead by example.
When you consider drafting board volunteers, it helps to determine if the following attributes exist within each potential draft pick:
- An interest for your institution
- A passion for your cause
- A commitment to fully participate or work
- A willingness to identify, rate, screen and solicit others
- A belief in the mission
- A desire to recruit others to volunteer on the board
- A willingness to give significantly and be willing to open doors to other prospects
- An ability to inspire others to engage
- An openness to share candid advice and guidance and to change a culture of philanthropy
- A special pride in being part of your organization
- A caring heart and servant-leader mentality
As you determine what types of individuals you want to serve on your board, you need to structure the board to meet the changing needs of the organization. For fundraising, you must at least have strong executive, strategic planning and development committees.
Carefully select potential board members based upon their potential for your organization. Have specific term limits and a written job description so there are no surprises. Constantly talk to former board members so public relations can stay positive, potential new board members may be uncovered and good stewardship may reflect in new or increased gifts from them. Also do research by talking to individuals in the community known for the fact that they know everyone in the town.
In summary, think of the recruiting new board members in terms of drafting volunteers. Over time, you will know which volunteers in your community are high-ranking in terms of their performance as nonprofit volunteers and in terms of their potential board membership for your organization.
Many nonprofit executives make mistakes in board selection, which they have to live with for many disappointing years. Assign a greater importance to this task and draft wisely. A few first-round board volunteers could change your nonprofit landscape! In the nonprofit world, draft day can be any day for a successful nonprofit organization.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.