You know that the board plays a big role in every nonprofit organization – you’ve heard the good, the bad, and the worse.
And now the time has come for you to put together your very first nonprofit board.
So how do you do it right?
Where do you find potential members?
How do you choose who to elect to your board?
Adding new members to your board of directors is a process to take seriously. While the position is on a volunteer basis, your board members are so much more than volunteers. They have a legal obligation to your organization, and will represent you in an official capacity for the length of their term.
Before you jump into recruitment, you’ll have some decisions to make.
How many times per year will you meet?
The requirement is once – but that’s likely far too sparse for a fledgling organization that will need its board members rolling up their sleeves to assist. Knowing your meeting schedule beforehand will help potential new members appropriately assess whether they can make the time commitment you need.
How long will your term limits be?
Not defining term limits is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when setting up a new nonprofit board. Because term limits force member turnover, they guarantee that you’ll always have new, fresh perspectives – and that disengaged board members will eventually roll off without your having to ask.
How will you structure your board?
Which officer positions will you choose? What about committees? You’ll need written descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of each of these. Think of them like job descriptions that clearly outline the expectations of a board member’s commitment.
Aim to have various skills represented on your board: fundraising, finance, legal, technology, marketing, communications, or anything else that feels important for your organization.
Consider lived experience, as well as professional skills. Your board will ultimately be stronger if it includes members who represent the community you serve, for example. And people who have a strong passion for the issue at hand means they’ll be more willing to jump in and get the work done.
The recruitment of your first nonprofit board is a chance to center equity in your organization from the beginning. Look for a breadth of backgrounds and experiences – racial, religious, socioeconomic, gender identity, professional background, proximity to community… Anything that means your board members and organizational leadership will bring various perspectives to the table.
And when they’re at the table, make sure every member is supported and that your decision-making process is genuinely inclusive.
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