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Prospective Board Members – Accept Anyone & Everyone

Many organizations find themselves in a position where they are desperate for board members. Perhaps a board member or two has resigned, another one has stopped coming to board meetings and another one comes but doesn’t participate in anything except the meetings. Sound familiar? It seems that at one time or another every board has these challenges, as we continue our series on the board of directors, we are looking at ways we can strengthen the board and ultimately, the organization.

First, do not be desperate for board members. Yes, your by-laws may indicate a certain number of required board members. And, you may realize that you have fallen below that number. Do not panic. I would encourage you to take the time you need to to get strong, effective board members instead of filling board slots with “warm bodies.”

Know that every person who wants to be on your board of directors is not a good fit. People want to serve on boards for a variety of reasons, many of which are not to serve the organization, but instead are to serve themselves. Think about the culture of the organization and the culture you want to develop. The study of group dynamics tells us that one person with a strong personality can destroy the culture you are trying to build.  Unfortunately, many organizations have never thought about the culture they want to develop.

Step one: Identify as a board the culture you are seeking to develop. How does the group relate and interact? Likewise, think about the entire organization and the culture it has. One function of the board is to support the organizational culture.

Next, interview the prospective board members. Just because someone wants to serve on the board of directors does not mean they have to be accepted OR that they are a good fit. Use the following interview questions as a guide to assess potential board candidates.

  • What do you know about the organization? This question will provide insight into why the individual is interested in contributing their time, talent and treasure to the organization.
  • How would you define a “good” board member? This question will let you see what the board member expects to do in their role on the board of directors.
  • What is your experience in fundraising? Recognize that not every person has experience as a fundraiser; however, all board members need to understand coming into their role they will be expected to contribute to the organization and participate in fundraising activities.
  • What skills, experiences and resources do you bring to the organization? Again, this question lets the board member know that they will be expected to contribute to the organization. Be very conscious about what the organization needs and what roles you are expecting board members to play.
  • Does your schedule have flexibility? While this question may not be a deal-breaker, it will help if you have an understanding of the person’s schedule and their ability to be available for activities as needed. And, bottom-line, we all make time to do those things important to us.

In addition to these questions, think about other questions that are unique and important to your organization. The important thing to remember is individuals interviewing for board positions should not make an assumption that they are automatically “in.” Board interviews should be used as a selection process to get the best possible candidates.

What other questions have you asked in board interviews? Are you in the midst of board recruitment?

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