The board is the heart of a nonprofit. It pumps blood to all aspects of the organization. It sets the vision, defines policy, raises funds, and ensures accountability. A qualified and engaged board sets the tone for executive leadership and staff, provides stability in turbulent times, and attracts new board members with ease.
Some organizations have a waiting list of people wanting to serve on their board. Term limits are enforced, and the board is both energized with “new blood” and anchored by those who are “seasoned.” These are desirable boards to serve on. There are a number of reasons why some boards easily attract new members while others struggle to recruit and retain members who can make a difference. With this column we share four things for you to reflect on, discuss, and appropriately act on.
Mission, vision, and impact. You don’t want just anybody on your board: you want those who are committed to your nonprofit from a personal, political, and/or business perspective. People seek to give their time, expertise and money to those things they are passionate about; that which they define as meaningful; and those organizations they believe make an impact. Be clear and concise about who you are and what you stand for: you will attract like minds.
Leadership. The volunteer and staff leadership of an organization can serve as a “push” or a “pull.” You want engaged and experienced leadership who can move your nonprofit forward. Current and potential board members evaluate the executive director or CEO and fellow board members. They may not say anything, but they are evaluating – based on their experienced – whether or not this is a group that can get things done. They will look at who leaders are, how they interact with others, and the way in which they advance an agenda.
Status and Prestige. People want to be associated with people and organizations of perceived status and prestige. What exactly constitutes “status” and “prestige” will differ from person to person: what matters is whether your current and prospective board members believe your nonprofit has it. Status and prestige can come from your organization’s ability to deliver a specific service (“serving more meals to more seniors”); perform or compete (“highest ranked women’s basketball team the Midwest”), or its uniqueness (“the only organization serving the LGBTQI community in rural Kentucky”).
Personal impact. Don’t overlook the importance of how board members are impacted by their board experience. This includes things such as frequency and time of meetings; use or non-use of agendas, minutes, and consent calendars; ability of board members to share their expertise and resources; and the ability to interact with people who can have a positive impact on their life, family, business, career, or political aspirations. Do members enjoy their board service?
Take a look at what’s going on and see if you can find the answer to the question: why are people lining up to be on other boards but not mine?
[Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Learn more about (re)building your board with our 2020 book Strong Leaders, Better Results: Learn to Optimize Your Nonprofit Board. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.]