Attracting the right people to your not-for-profit board can be challenging. You obviously want people who are enthusiastic about your mission, and who are willing to give of their time. Time is often a scarce commodity for people, so you need to exercise caution to not overwhelm your Board members or other volunteers. These constraints, coupled with the many things that need to be done, can make it tempting to accept almost anyone who expresses interest in becoming a board member. But not everyone is qualified or has the right skill set to help you build a strong board that will be an asset to your organization.
This doesn’t mean that someone who wants to volunteer, but isn’t the right fit for your Board, should be turned away. You likely have many other volunteer opportunities besides serving on the board of directors. People can serve on committees that report to the board, can assist with fund raising or public awareness events, or can simply help around your office. You can almost certainly find something useful for a willing volunteer.
In recruiting board members, however, you should be looking for people who bring specific skill sets to help your organization advance. This might be someone who has a particular expertise in servicing your organization (whether it be legal, human resources, fundraising, or, dare I say it, accounting), someone who has connections that could be of value, or someone who has the leadership skills that can inspire others working with your organization to greater heights. In all cases, it should be someone you are confident is responsible, will show up, can work well with others and is there to help and promote the organization rather than themselves.
Board members, in turn, have to be mindful of their responsibilities. They have a fiduciary responsibility to the organization they serve. This means that a board member must be willing to spend the time necessary to understand the issues they are voting on, willing to question management and make decisions in the same way they would if they were making decisions impacting their own life.
Recruiting for your board can be difficult. But it’s also one of the most important functions of your organization, and you shouldn’t add someone for the sake of adding someone. Board members should be added strategically, to make sure the board is well-rounded and diverse enough that it can reach the best possible decisions in guiding the organization.
Interested in learning more about having a successful board of directors? Keep an eye out for an invitation to our next breakfast seminar on January 16th focused on creating and running a successful board of directors.