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One of the questions that I am frequently asked by nonprofit leaders is how to recruit new board members and then immediately following that question is, “how do I get them involved?”

All nonprofits are required to have a board of directors. According to the IRS, the board of directors, as a unit are legally responsible for the organization. However, I hear from nonprofits every day that they are struggling to get board members. To recruit board members, it may be helpful to understand the factors that are considered by potential board members. A recent survey of nonprofit board members by Software Advice reveals some insights.

Key findings include:

  1. Personal fulfillment is the most common reason for serving on a board of directors.
  2. The most important consideration before joining a board is level of expected involvement. In other words, how much time will serving on the board require?

The survey also asked participants about the skills that they believe have the most impact on the success of board members. A variety of skills are needed by nonprofit board members, however, the survey participants agreed that there should be at least one board member who is proficient in each of the following areas:

  • Understanding and analysis of financial data
  • Time management and organizational skills
  • Legal skills
  • Leadership and project management skills
  • Marketing and media skills
  • Technology skills
  • Fundraising skills

While these skills are important and most nonprofits want individuals who have expertise in these areas, the study also found that it is important for board members to have extensive volunteer experience and good communication skills. It is important to clarify with potential board members what their expectations of board service are and what the needs of the organization are. When needs and expectations align, board service can be a rewarding experience for all involved.

And while these skills are important and essential for an organization to run well, I want to encourage you to recruit board members who are passionate about the work you do. Passion trumps skills every time. In our spare time, our free time, our time for recreation, we tend only to find time to do those things we are passionate about….those things that we don’t really care about get pushed to the back burner.

This is one of the reasons that nonprofits and ministries become so frustrated with their board members. Recruiting for skills will always leave you frustrated and annoyed. Instead, put passion and commitment to the mission at the top of the list. When you do so, the board members you recruit will want to serve the organization in whatever capacity they can. Their donations will be larger, they will share the message about the work the organization is doing and they will bring along others to share in the mission.

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