on the recruitment process. Recruiting board members is a challenge for organizations of all sizes and ages. And, the board members who were great when you were getting started are probably not going to be a good fit once the organization is two or three years old. Be prepared for change!
Many people often talk about finding that “one” board member who will make a significant donation to the organization. I want to discourage you from recruiting based on someone’s giving potential. Instead, focus on the organization’s mission. Your goal should be to identify individuals who will fit with the culture of the organization and who are passionate about the organization’s mission. Passion trumps giving potential every time. Let me explain why.
Someone who is passionate about an organization’s mission will contribute to the level that their finances will allow. But, they will also tell others about the organization. They will share your story with friends, on social media and become your best community ambassador. As such, they have the potential to generate a lot of interest and support for the organization. They will make board meetings a priority and will be there to lend a hand when needed. Someone who is recruited for their ability to give financially will often end up being a huge disappointment. (And, most frequently, they never end up giving to the level you expected they would).
With the board, think about the skills and resources the board needs to get its work done. Take a look at the strategic plan and where the organization is working to go in the next three years. Now, have the current board identify their skills and resources….where does the gap exist between what you presently have and what it will take to get you where you want to go?
Now, develop a confidential list of potential board candidates who will fill one or more of the gaps you have identified. Then, begin to find ways to get to know them. At this point, you are not looking to “marry” them, instead, you are “playing the field—dating.” You may want to invite them to attend a fundraising event or other activity sponsored by the organization. Maintain a continuous, on-going list.
As you identify potential board members, I would also encourage you to have them serve on a committee for a while. This will allow you to really get to know them, how they work, how they interact with other board members and if they follow through on commitments.
As you get to know potential board members and make the “ask” to see if they are interested in serving on the board of directors, be prepared—some will say “yes,” some will say “no” and some will say “not now.” If someone says “not now,” they should remain on the list and continue to be “courted.” Continue to build their interest and commitment to the organization.
Once the board has identified individuals who will be asked to serve on the board, develop a process that shows everyone involved how important board service is to you and the organization. Send them an invitation to join the board in the form of a written letter signed by the board president. Within the letter outline the expectations of board members. Include a time when you will follow-up to answer any questions and to discuss their response to the invitation.
Bottom line, board members are an essential part of nonprofits and ministries. Until you have a recruitment process in place that takes recruitment seriously instead of as an afterthought or a rushed effort to find a warm body, you will never attract the types of people who can take the organization to the next level.
Members of the Faith Based Nonprofit Resource Center have access to a board recruitment matrix to help them identify the specific skills/resources needed by the board. Learn more here. Feel free to contact us to get help with any aspect of board development.
Sweet blessings to you, my friend.