Okay so there are many things you don’t want to do when recruiting nonprofit board members. But here are the 2 most common that I see trip up nonprofit leaders most often.
And you want to get it right because when you have enough of the right people focused on the right things, you can raise more money, enroll more people and build more awareness.
I know this because I’ve been an ED and managed boards of 8-45 members. I’ve screwed things up royally when recruiting and then I learned how to get it right. Which brings me to the first mistake you want to avoid.
You have no clear direction or goals for the organization. If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, how do you know what kind of talent to recruit? When you know that you want to do ABC, then you can create a board profile that will get you there. Otherwise you may just be recruiting nice folks with good intentions but trust me – they won’t stick around if you’re just flying by the seat of your pants. They won’t know why you need them, they won’t be motivated and they will likely stop showing up. Make a plan and share your goals loud and proud!
You rush to approach really smart people and tell them you want them to be on the board because you have a quick deadline. That may sound fine but let me explain. Before you approach anyone, you need to have a prioritized list of prospects. You can then vet them and compare them to your desired board profile. Are they a good match? There’s an art and a science to this as you work through this confidential list (that’s right, don’t tell board prospects they’re on the list – what if they don’t rise to the top and you don’t approach them? Awkward).
And when you do reach out to your top prospects, let them know you’re expanding your leadership team and would like to tell them more about it so they can determine if they are interested in getting involved. Then in this interview with the ED and a board member, share your goals, how you’re structured, learn more about their interests and share board expectations, if appropriate. You may decide in this meeting that a committee is a better fit, for instance. Sometimes you have to slow down to get it right!
At the end of the day, you will be much more effective at recruiting highly engaged board members when you think about WHY you need more board members and invest time in an intentional process.
Then you can appreciate the money, people and awareness that are attracted to your cause!