“Finding New Board Members Is Only Difficult for Our Organization.” Oh Really?

May 6, 2013

ohreallyWe hear from many organizations looking for the right board members to join their teams, and some believe they are alone in this difficult effort.

It’s tough work. But if you use a year-round process of discovery and cultivation, your organization may not get stuck in the lurch of board member deficit disorder or dwindle down to leadership by just a few volunteer leaders.

For a few years, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County tried a grand experiment called the Board Bank. It was an online connector where people in the community who were seeking meaningful volunteer leadership opportunities could look for open board positions at local nonprofits.

The concept was wonderful. Some excellent, long-lasting matches were made.

But it was very time-intensive to maintain, and many users believed that finding what looked like an optimal “match” online didn’t require any of the hard work we might typically do before making a serious board commitment.

We found that there was little “getting to know you.” Some boards were desperate to fill several key positions. Some candidates made the leap to join a board without taking the time to understand expectations.

BEFORE you ask a prospective board member to join your board, know what your organization is looking for–who you’re looking for.  (Hint: that’s why The Giving Partner asks whether you have written board selection criteria.)

BEFORE you ask a prospective board member to join your board, know what you want that person to do. If you need a person with marketing expertise, make sure your candidate understands what role she is expected to fill as it relates to her experience.

BEFORE you ask a prospective board member to join your board, know how many other boards that individual is serving on. Think about a candidate’s ability to represent your organization fully if they are already heavily involved in other organizations.

If you are currently looking for new board members, be sure to…

  • Talk with your constituents, volunteers and supporters. Schedule some interviews with people who are already vested in your organization. We’re working with an organization in the middle of this process now. (We will tell you how it goes!)
  • Take a deep look at your working committees and task forces. If someone is doing an amazing job and loves your organization, give them an opportunity to step up their commitment.
  • Meet with board members of other organizations in our community. Ask them if they know others with a passion for your mission.
  • Ask community leaders for their advice and suggestions.
  • Consider using LinkedIn or Facebook to find people who are passionate about what you do.

Recruitment is an ongoing process.  And good cultivation of board members, like cultivation of donors and supporters, takes time. It isn’t always easy. But doing it with thought and intentionality will reduce turnover on your board and allow the right people to become your volunteer leaders of the future.

Don’t let board deficit disorder strike your organization. Keep those wheels of recruitment churning by getting out there, networking in our connected community, and talking about your nonprofit wherever you go.

Side note:  Thanks to Dr. Sandy Hughes for teaching so many of us everything we know about board governance. Aren’t we lucky to have her in our community?

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County


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