I often have one-time coaching calls with former clients just to serve as a thought partner and sounding board as they face a significant issue. I recently had a call with the Executive Director of a former client, who we’ll call “Dana” to protect my client’s confidentiality. He confided that he did not have the board he needed.
So I asked him the question, “What do you want from your team that you aren’t currently getting?” Dana responded with four intangible qualities:
- Thought partners who know how to envision something
- Excited ambassadors who get their networks involved
- Team boosters and cheerleaders who celebrate successes internally
- Volunteer fundraisers who aren’t afraid to ask
Dana and I reviewed his current board members and determined how many had one of these qualities. Two were thought partners in operations, but not in programming. Two were excited ambassadors, while four could become so with the right coaching and encouragement. The two excited ambassadors were also great internal cheerleaders. None of them were strong volunteer fundraisers.
Too often we focus on the traditional board matrix when recruiting members: professional background, diversity goals and community connections. Consequently, we get the right butts into board seats, but we still don’t have what we need.
For this reason, Dana and I created an elegantly simple idea for this year’s recruitment campaign. First, identify prospective members who have at least one of those four intangible qualities. Then run that list of 25 or 35 prospects through the traditional board matrix. Now we have a list of people who represent a good blend of professions, offer diverse community representation, have strong community connections and meet the organization’s intangible needs.
Of course, the organization will still follow a strong recruitment process. This includes an application, an interview, checking references and being very up front about your expectations. The four intangibles that my former client needs from his team may not be the ones you need. So, if you’re the chief executive at your nonprofit, ask yourself “What do I most need from my board that I am not currently getting?” You might realize your team has plenty of thought partners, but not enough people who ask tough questions. Or that you have a lot of transactional members, but need some volunteer leaders who are dedicated to cultivating and developing a sense of team on your board. Check out this article for more ideas about who to look for and how to find them.
As part of my consulting practice, I do a lot of board development and commitee recruitment work. If you’re ready to stop doing business as usual and create real change for your board and your organization, reach out to me.
Additionally, check out the following Successful Nonprofits® resources if this post was helpful: