Nonprofit Board Management 101: Finding the Right Members

Nonprofit Board Management 101: Finding the Right Members

While a board serves a core purpose for any nonprofit, just the word “board” brings stress into most of our lives. It takes serious commitment from all sides: to be part of a board, to manage the board as an Executive Director, and to collaborate with board influence as a staff member. To take that further, many nonprofits solely operate with a working board that does the bulk of the work.

Before getting overwhelmed by the ins and outs of nonprofit board operation, let’s start with some basics. Who do we want to be part of our board? What skills should they bring to the team? How do we know they would be a good fit?

To review, the purpose of a board is to bring an added value to the institution and its staff while ensuring its good governance and financial stability

What We Do and Don’t Want to Bring to the Board

Here are some guiding points to help determine what qualities you want to bring to your board: 

  1. What pushes your mission forward? This is our guiding question. Whether we need to improve in marketing, fundraising, or program implementation (and the list goes on), we want to find folks who have a background in or deep interest in those areas. 
  2. Variety is the spice of life and board rooms. We can benefit from a variety of perspectives and opinions because they give us a wholesome view to be the best we can be. 
  3. A sustainable structure. We want to keep an odd number of board members (minimum of three) and be sure to stagger their terms so that not everyone exits at the same time. 

Certainly, we can live without the following qualities: 

  1. A lack of passion. Anyone who doesn’t believe in or take the mission and its work seriously, no matter how deep their pockets are, will not be a good fit. 
  2. Oligarchy. Aside from the fact that its against the law, we don’t want a family reunion in the boardroom. It is also illegal to have business partnerships serve on the same boards. 
  3. Someone that only brings their checkbook. We want board members who will bring drive and creativity to push forward the board’s contributions (which are not just financial). 

Communicating Expectations

We want the right people for our board, keeping in mind their skills and availability to do the work that needs to be done. Thus, it is critical to communicate board role expectations to any potential member. We need to keep in mind the following duties when letting candidates know what lies ahead. They will be expected to: 

  • Fundraise & solicit donations
  • Help the organization grow 
  • Governance & oversight 
  • Hire CEO & set compensation 
  • Meet on the scheduled basis

Check out these ten basic responsibilities to get a deeper idea of what board members will do exactly. 

It is too important and there is too much at stake to take on a board member job lightly. When assessing whether a candidate is the right fit for the board, consider the following questions: 

Do they have the time to attend meetings and perform their assigned responsibilities?

Do they have a genuine passion for the mission?

Are they comfortable putting their name out there as a representative for the cause and asking for donations/support?

Do they have a background and experience in an area that will help push our mission forward? 

Putting together the right board is a delicate combination of commitment, vision, passion, and action. It’s no simple task, but by first determining what we are looking for, and setting a realistic picture of what board members will need to actually do, we can start to chip away at the task. 

Feel free to ask us any questions. We would love to see you fulfill your nonprofit board dreams!