Knowledge and Insights

In Search of a Board Member? Where to Look to Find that Elusive Candidate

Did you know that there are over 2,500 nonprofits in Mercer County, New Jersey alone?  Given how many nonprofits are in our region, and that good nonprofit governance practices recommend term limits and board turnover, it is no surprise that nonprofits are in constant search of board members.

Finding board members is not always easy –you want someone who cares about your mission, brings skills, resources and contacts to the table–and most importantly– is going to follow through on all those promises they make!  Where to look?  Here are some suggestions:

Donors – You know that donors are committed to your cause and willing to contribute resources already. You do not need to bring on the largest donors – in fact you may not want to have those donors see every bit of how the sausage is made.   But what about looking on LinkedIn to learn about skills of some of your consistent mid-sized donors that could be helpful on your board?  Get them involved in committees so that you can see from both perspectives if you have a fit and then bring them on.  Most likely the donations will get larger as well.

Non-Board Committee Members – What better proving ground than committees?  Who is the community member on your event committee who takes charge and makes things happen?  Who is the Advisory Council member who spends extra time getting you the resources you need to be successful? The people working hard on your committees will also work hard on your board.  If you have not historically included non-board members on your committees, now is a good time to start.

People You are Serving – As nonprofits wrestle with moving their organizations forward from a social equity perspective, it is becoming increasingly clear how important it is to have board representation of the people that you are serving.  How will you meet the needs of your community if you do not fully understand what those needs are?  Is there a parent of a child attending your nonprofit’s summer camp who would be a good addition?  Is there a “graduate” of your program who benefitted from your services and can come back to lead your organization as a board member? Are you a theater that can identify an audience member to serve?

Colleagues Knowledgeable about Your Nonprofit’s Field – You are making decisions about how to serve your community and a lot of that expertise is provided by the staff.  It may be helpful to also bring on board members who have knowledge of the field from a different perspective.  Is there a clinical social worker who could give insights into the mental health needs of your constituents?  What about having a science teacher or professor who is an advocate for sustainability on your environmental organization’s board?  Just remember that you want to get strategic perspectives on the board—the staff is doing the hands-on work.

New and More Diverse Venues–Traditionally, boards have added members by asking friends and colleagues.  If you want to increase the diversity of perspectives on your board, consider looking in new settings.  Attend a conference (virtually works) and engage a few leaders whose LinkedIn profiles or whose comments indicate that they care about your cause or have skills that would be a good fit.  Connect with organizations that have diverse memberships and whose members are committed to giving back.  Be sure to bring up your nonprofit wherever you go to find people who self-identify that they might be interested in getting more involved.

BoardConnect – Local organizations like NonProfitConnect offer training programs to teach new board members about their role and then match them with nonprofits.  Participants in these programs are preselected for interest in Board service and are trained on the roles and responsibilities of board members and the latest trends in board service.

Finding new board members can be challenging but is worth an ongoing, proactive effort.  Your nonprofit is dependent on your board leaders to assure the future success of your nonprofit in partnership with the Executive Director or CEO.  Be proactive so that when term limits end, you are not left with a diminished board!

DISCLAIMER: This advisory resource is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute business or tax advice and may not be used and relied upon as a substitute for business or tax advice regarding a specific issue or problem. Advice should be obtained from a qualified accountant, tax practitioner or attorney licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where that advice is sought.