by Mandy Pearce

Leaders, ambassadors, volunteers, and governing body are a few of the terms often associated with those individuals who serve on nonprofit board of directors.

With the role of board member comes responsibility to govern, role model and advocate.  With such an important position, how are board members chosen?

Sadly, but all too often, board members are begged to ‘just show up to meetings’, asked by friends and neighbors to ‘fill seats’ or are appointed by organizations to be representatives on a board regardless of their interest in the position.  If you have worked in the nonprofit world for any length of time, you are probably familiar with these recruitment methods. This is not typically how a strong board member is found who will fill a need and provide much needed organizational support.

If your organization is new, who should be asked to serve?  If your organization is established, and vacancies on the board need filling, who should fill those seats?

Last week I was flattered to be asked to serve on a nonprofit board of a very worth while organization that is just starting out in Florida.  For those who don’t know, I live in NC.  I do travel and work a lot in Florida, have clients and teach there and am involved with some organizations there.  To serve on a board however, I would want to live in the area and have the ability to become involved personally, be present at all board meetings, help open doors with community connections and be a more visible advocate.

I know the reason I was asked, but the initial catalyst for growing the board was feedback from a foundation that the organization needed more board diversity (it was all family members of the founder) and they wanted to see community involvement and engagement.

I called the founder and had a conversation explaining my rationale for not accepting the position and helping her through the process of thinking of who might be an ideal board member and how to engage them in a conversation about serving.

These are some of the questions I shared with her, that you might also consider as you develop your board, or grow your current board.

First and foremost, you want to select people who share your vision and mission.  If they do not care deeply about the purpose of your organization, how can they be a champion of your cause?

Next, you want to think of individuals who possess a certain level of business or organizational competency.  It is not necessary for them to have prior experience as business leaders, but they should understand principles of good business practices and have the ability to think strategically.

Quality board member should give of their time, treasure and talents in order to help the organization work towards its’ mission.

Think of individuals who have knowledge of the work you do, who can open doors in your community for partnerships and collaborations, people who can help build upon your existing strengths, overcome current weaknesses, access opportunities and eliminate potential threats to your organization.

Establishing, maintaining and growing a board of directors should be a strategic process.  It requires planning and structure.

Are you working toward a working board that helps you grow and achieve your goals?

Hopefully you have some great conversation starters within this article that will help you being to establish a list of the ideal board members for your nonprofit.  Take your time and find the board members who will help you grow for good!