Friday, 13 November 2015 18:33

How can I find high quality board members? Featured

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Lots of nonprofits are looking to rejuvenate their Boards and are on the constant look out for great candidates. I have heard some nonprofits say — there just are no good candidates out there. Not true!! You just need to know where to look.

Of course you should always start with your own networks, make sure you let people know the kinds of people and the skills you are looking for. But beyond that, there are a myriad of organizations aiming who are keen to help you find great board candidates, and trust me, there are also lots of good candidates who want to join your Board.

Sometimes I think nonprofits believe they are asking for a favor when they want someone to join — of course you are, but if you handle your board relations well, then your nonprofit board member should be saying that was the best decision I ever made. There are lots of things you have to offer Board members. A local network or like-minded philanthropic individuals. The feeling of doing good. An opportunity to take what they’ve learned in other parts of their lives and apply it to an issue about which they are passionate. The chance to make a difference.

If you do not know where to get started, it is always smart to try your local state nonprofit association, community foundation, or United Way. Many of them run board training and matching -- a bit like speed-dating for nonprofits and prospective Board Members. In NYC, I used United Way's BoardServeNYC, a great services that trains Board members on relevant legislation, their responsibilities and some ways to think about how to be a high performing board member, and then help match them to relevant organizations. LinkedIn is also trialing features to recruit nonprofit board members, see: LinkedIn Board Connect. BoardAssist is another in New York.

If you are outside of the US, this website has loads of other international options: Board Posting and Matching Programs.

Note that, whatever service you use, the quality of the outcomes will come down to the work you do once you have prospective candidates. You still need to do your research and due diligence -- know the skills gaps you need to fill, and select accordingly. Once you have a candidate, conduct a sufficient number of interviews to ensure a good cultural fit as well as clear mutual expectations. For example, what do you expect from your board in the way of contributions, both connections, time, how much money they can directly contribute or raise on your behalf? Once you have agreed someone will join, go out of your way to create a positive experience for them. Provide an information packet for them with your by-laws, your yearly calendar of meetings, fundraising information, a list of staff and board contacts and roles. Match new board members with a buddy, create social opportunities so board members can get to know each other and the organization, and offer to provide support and coaching for those who are new to fundraising for a board.

Good luck!

Last modified on Thursday, 19 November 2015 02:10
Liana Downey

Liana Downey is an experienced management consultant, who has consistently delivered results for clients on critical topics around the world. Liana is an expert advisor to the Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Prior to establishing Liana Downey & Associates, she led McKinsey & Company's Australian government and social-sector practices, and holds an MBA (Public Management) from Stanford University.