Next step is to recruit people to help you initially implement your idea. For me, this was my roommate and my nonprofit mentor (who later became the Executive Director of the organization). The three of us formed the original Board of Trustees for the nonprofit exempt paperwork.
Founders are accused of not being professional by picking their friends as Board members. I have to disagree. When you first start an organization, it is your friends and family who are going to support your passion and idea for a nonprofit because they support you. Find people who believe in you and are willing to put in the time to help. You will need allies on the Board. These people will back you up in large group meetings and in the community. They can also be direct and honest with you even if the feedback is tough to swallow. Board members are your teammates.
Be patient with your friends and family’s schedules because they genuinely want to help, however, they are not as impassioned as you are about the project and they have their own lives. Just because you have chosen to give up your life to form a nonprofit, you cannot expect the same of your friends.
Beyond your friends, you will want to look for potential Board members who are:
- Leading community members
- Experts in the field (that your nonprofit operates in)
- Good lawyer
- Savvy accountant
- Have deep pockets
Board members need to have time, talent, or treasure – or all three! Recognize that different people will fill the role of Board members throughout the inception of the organization in order to provide for the different needs of your organization.
For Deborah Lindholm, Founder of the Foundation for Women, she brought together about 12 family members and friends in her living room once a month to work on creating the Foundation for Women. She recognized that the creation of a nonprofit organization couldn’t be successful with one person; it needed to have community support. In hindsight, she realizes that these initial Board members got involved with the Foundation for Women because they believed in her, but as much as the work of the organization. Deborah asked her friend and attorney to help write and submit the nonprofit paperwork. She says:
“You need a community of people to agree to support you, a lawyer to make sure your T’s are crossed and your I’s are dotted and God on your team.”
As the organization becomes established, the Board will need individuals who strongly support the work, not just the founder. The Foundation is fortunate to still have a couple of the original Board members as strong supporters today.
For Frank Pisch (Founder of The Outdoor Adventure School), he choose individuals in the community who were well-respected:
- CPA (who liked outdoors)
- Insurance representative (high liability with kids and adventure)
- Chief of police
- Parents of kids in programs
- Fellow educators
He felt that his fatal flaw was that he did not properly fill the “treasure” on his Board as he did have any fundraisers on the Board or people with access to funds. It is important to recruit individuals on Board who have the skill set to help you fundraise.
Speaking of fundraising, the next post will talk about how to raise funds for your fledgling nonprofit organization. Stay tuned.