Being a nonprofit board member takes time, commitment, and personal resources. Because of this, the qualities of the board members should be aligned with your organizational goals. Nonprofit boards don’t often have the opportunity to get to know potential board members before inviting them to join the board. Therefore, recruiting new members begins with a self-nomination process that asks potential members to describe their involvement, strengths, and ambitions in being a part of the organization’s leadership team.
On paper, it seems like you're getting the information you need — name, contact information, and some tidbits on how they feel about your organization — but is an objective or subjective description of a person’s experience equal to what a nonprofit might need? This leads us to question, what are the most critical elements of a high-functioning board? There are 4 things to look for when recruiting board members for your nonprofit.
1. Passion for the Mission
Any board member that you recruit should have a passion for the mission. A board member who has a passion for the mission will articulate why they want to be involved. The board member has to understand the impact that you want to have. They will also do their best to report back both with challenges and successes. It’s no good if you have a passionate board member that is out of touch. A great board member is present, understands the barriers, and finds ways around them both internally and externally to get closer to the overall goals.
2. Community Connections
At BGV, we understand social connections are your entree to the world of business. Without social capital, getting to the table won’t be easy. They open doors―but only those you run through. At the core of it all, social capital is about relationships. It’s the connections and influences you have in business and within your community.
Social Capital is the network of friends, colleagues, partners, investors, funders, employees, and customers available to you as a person or organization. When appropriately leveraged through social media engagement, board service, or other networking activities, these people can help you achieve goals faster, reach more people effectively and make better decisions to address market opportunities. Your board member should be able to help you leverage these relationships, make introductions, and so forth.
3. Fundraising Abilities
Board members play an integral role in the success of any nonprofit organization. A board member’s effectiveness is measured using many metrics. A board’s most essential role is fundraising. That means that organizations are losing money by not thoroughly vetting those who lead their fundraising efforts. Sixty-seven percent of executives and 64% of board chairs acknowledge that fundraising is a significant weakness within nonprofit organizations. So, don’t be blinded by a passion for the mission. Although it’s a fundamental start—but it’s not sustainable. The success of any company depends on capital for the long game.
4. Demographics Of The Board
In building a diverse board, many of the same things that happen with fundraising apply to diverse candidates as well. The lack of attention to potential diverse candidates can contribute to self-identified areas of weakness during recruitment, which leads to accidentally siloing out candidates without realizing it.
On the priority list for board members, passion for the mission ranks 82%, whereas hiring diverse members ranks at 24%. Nonprofit organizations are pillars in their communities. Without a diverse group of members, it can negatively impact sound decision-making.
A diverse board has various viewpoints, experiences, skills, and backgrounds, as well as different networks and varying connections to the community served. A diverse board also enables the organization to understand better, meet, and serve the needs of a diverse community. Nonprofits that do not adequately reflect the diversity of their communities risk alienating key stakeholders and limiting fundraising success.
When you begin to recruit board members for your nonprofit, it’s important to remember that not just anybody can fill the position. Just as with any venture, having the wrong person involved can seriously sabotage all of your hard work. When recruiting board members, it’s important to remember these four things to create long-term success in your organization.