Board members are critical to the survival of a nonprofit organization. A great board will take an organization to extraordinary heights, while a mediocre board can have one stagnant for years. Selecting board members will be one of the most important things nonprofit leaders will do to ensure the organization’s livelihood. So, here’s ten things you should look for when seeking and considering nonprofit board members.
As a small nonprofit, there’s a lot of services you need that you’re simply unable to afford. You can shore up that weakness with your board members. You want board members with a diverse skill set instead of people from the same or similar backgrounds. Look for board members with legal, accounting, marketing, programming experience to help in areas you and your staff lack.
Network and Connections
Getting the word out about your small, grassroots nonprofit will be challenging and costly. Therefore, you want board members with the ability to tap into one or more networks and have connections within those networks to spread the word about the work of your nonprofit when it comes time to host an event or raise money. People who are members of sororities and fraternities or other professional groups and communities make ideal board members.
Not only should you look for people who have access to networks and connections, but they will also need to have some degree of influence within their networks and among their connections. People with some influence find it easier to inspire people to take action when needed. Someone with influence can easily pick up and phone or send an email to get hundreds or thousands of people to show up and donate.
The ability to raise money
Some people can have a skill set, network and connections, and even some influence but may be hesitant about asking people for money. Asking people for money is not an easy task for everyone. Therefore, you need board members who are unafraid to ask people they know as well as people they don’t know to make contributions to your organization.
Sense of passion and commitment
The last thing you need is someone on your board just to be on a board, or solely because they like you and you asked. They will eventually prove to be ineffective. You need someone passionate and committed to solving the problems your organization addresses. When a board member possesses that passion and commitment to your mission, doing the work necessary to advance the organization will be second nature. They will step up to leadership and be there for the long haul.
You may find yourself tempted to ask someone who sits on and performs well on other boards, but be careful because you want to make sure they have the time to commit to yours. Board work, especially for a small nonprofit, can require a lot of time with general and committee meetings in addition to attending organizational events or representing the organization in public. Someone with too many commitments is likely to be an inactive board member even if they joined with the best intentions to help.
How well your potential board member gets along with others, particularly when views and opinions may differ, is something you want to pay attention to when considering board members. Of course, you don’t want a yes man or woman. But surely you don’t want someone who is always difficult or confrontational. Board members must work closely together to get things done.
This may be the single most important characteristic of a potential board member. Someone who lacks integrity can do extreme damage to an organization. Be certain your potential board member has a great reputation for being honest and trustworthy. They will be privy to a lot of your organization’s information and operations.
Additionally, starting organizations could look for nonprofit organizations in Cleveland Ohio to take inspiration on how their boards are constituted, from their synergy to the skillsets of the members.