I spy… a new Board member.

After completing the Board Member Assessment Worksheet (Blog: A Bored Board, March 1, 2010), you may immediately realize that your Board lacks diversity — of gender, age and ethnicity. So, you immediately work to seek out diverse businessmen and women in your community.

And what happens? Often you find a plethora of middle-aged white male businessmen (bankers, accountants, real estate brokers, business owners, etc.) and very few diverse folks. No offense to the white guys, but your Board needs to be reflective of the people in the community and those who you serve. Funders want (sometimes even require) a diverse Board in the nonprofits they support. These diverse community members are often in such high demand, that they sit on many Boards.

So, how do you find diverse and qualified Board members?

The first step is to assemble a Board Nominations Committee. This group is responsible to identify which skills and experiences are needed for new Board members, find and recruit individuals who will fulfill these characteristics, and evaluate Board candidates. Committee members typically include the Board Chair, members of Executive Committee, other Board members, and the Executive Director.

The second step is to define the Board’s role and responsibilities. You probably already have these documents, but they may need to be spruced up. It is better to be upfront and specific about what you expect from your Board members. Do you have a specific donation amount that is expected of each Board member? Do you have a time commitment beyond attending one Board meeting a month? The more information you can give a prospective Board member, the better: expectations are everything!

The third step is to solicit Board members who have the diversity and skills needed (per your completed Board Member Assessment Worksheet).

Who do you solicit for qualified Board members? Start by asking your current Board members to recommend 2-5 people they think would make good Board members. Your staff work very closely with volunteers and can probably recommend which ones would make good Board members. Browse through your donor database for individual, corporate, and private foundation donors. Those who are investing their funds with the organization, may also want to invest their time and talent by serving on the Board. Solicit ideas from your local government officials who work with many people in the community and many times can ask certain outstanding community members to serve on a Board.

Where else can you find qualified Board members? Many times these individuals are already sitting on other nonprofit Boards because good Board members are in high demand. The idea is not to “poach” Board members, but to recognize that individuals like to help different nonprofits. Just make sure these individuals are not so over-committed that you will be the last organization that they focus their time and energy on. Look to your stellar community volunteers who are recognized for their volunteer service. It helps to have Board members who know your local community and how to get the elite groups tuned into your organization. Many local corporations have Board programs where nonprofits can fill out an application and request a Board member. Companies like to make donations to nonprofits where their employees volunteer. There are also organizations like Nonprofit Management Solutions, Idealist.org and other nonprofit resource groups who will help connect individuals who are looking for a nonprofit Board position and nonprofit organizations that are looking for qualified Board members.

On Wednesday, I’ll talk about how to recruit these potential Board members.

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