What Should I Expect of Board Members?
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. The board of directors holds the public trust. Public trust means that the general public (you and I) have an interest in all nonprofits simply because they are tax exempt. And, since they are tax exempt and do not pay taxes, the general public has the right to assume that they are being run well and that the best interests of the taxpayer are being taken into account. It is the role of the board of directors to uphold the public’s trust in every decision made at the board table.
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 when determining whether or not to join the board of an organization. A recent survey of nonprofit board members by Software Advice reveals some insights.
Key findings include:
- Personal fulfillment is the most common reason for serving on a board of directors.
- 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?
With these findings, it is important to make sure you are clear on the mission and purpose of the organization when talking to potential board members. In other words, connect the individual to the organization—what are they passionate about and how does that relate to the work of the organization? Secondly, be honest about how much time you are looking for board members to give – is your board a working board or has it transitioned to a governance board?
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.
Contact us, we can help you develop a board recruitment plan that works for your organization.