Assembling a good board is the most important thing you can do when setting up your nonprofit. Plus, keeping a pipeline full of good candidates means that you'll never run short. Board members rotate on and then off of boards. How you handle those vacancies says a lot about your nonprofit's health.
Finding good board members is easier than ever. We have all the traditional tools but also many online sources to help find good people and communities for reaching them.
Set up a Nominating Committee
The best boards have an ongoing nominating committee. If your nonprofit is in its formative months, assemble a group of trusted advisors who can assess the skills you'll need to be represented on your board, Then set them loose in the community to find a pool of qualified people.
Once you have your initial board, set up a permanent nominating committee. This is how you'll keep your board pipeline full. Put your best-connected board members on this committee.
Relationship management is what the nominating committee is all about. It will be scanning the community for great board members all the time. They will also turn those prospects into interested ones, and recruit them to serve.
Start Your Board Member Search With Your Volunteers
There are at least two good reasons to consider current volunteers for your board. One, they know your organization and are already loyal to your cause.
Second, volunteers are significant donors. If they have been around for a while, volunteers are probably among your most consistent donors, giving year after year. Even if those gifts are modest, they add up.
Not all volunteers want to serve on a board, but keep your eye out for those who seem to be natural leaders. Invite them to sit on a committee or two, and gradually introduce them to the idea of serving as a board member.
Board members who have volunteer experience with your organization are extremely valuable. They know how the organization runs and can bring a realistic viewpoint to board meetings where other members may have only a sketchy idea of how things work.
Make your donor database your best friend.
The donors in your database could be your best source of excellent board members. Loyal donors have already exhibited their commitment to you. They obviously are interested in your success. Let them help with it by considering them for your board.
Especially consider donors who make significant gifts to your organization. Bringing a major donor onto your board is one way to ensure future giving. But, major givers often welcome a chance to have a say in how things get done.
Major donors usually have excellent connections throughout the community and can help bring in other major gifts or share their knowledge about a prospective donor's financial means.
Diversify Your Board By Broadening Your Search
Consider business leaders in the community; outstanding young people; and active volunteers at other organizations.
Include people different than yourself and your colleagues. So many boards have a racial and economic diversity problem. They all look alike, have similar lifestyles, and live in the same neighborhoods. Ideally, your board should resemble the ethnic makeup of the people you serve.
Recruiting diverse board members may require you and your nominating committee to step out of your comfort zones and deliberately seek out people who look and live differently. Don't duck this issue. It's too important.
Use Board or Volunteer Recruitment Websites and Social Media
If you want to recruit young professionals for your board, you've got to adopt modern methods. That means learning to use all the online tools available.
Advertising on your own social media is the first step. Let people who already support your organization on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn know that a board position is open. Invite those supporters to get in touch.
But check even newer services as well. For instance, LinkedIn Board Connect is an ideal tool to reach today's professionals, many of whom would welcome an opportunity to serve on your board.
But there are some all-purpose volunteer recruitment sites that work extremely well for board members. The most well known is VolunteerMatch. More specialized services include TapRoot, that matches skilled (or pro bono) volunteers with nonprofits, including board members.
All of these services have lots of information on their sites and very clear instructions for using them. Some charge modest fees or have varying levels of service at different price points.
If your nonprofit needs some very sophisticated help or even consultation on board matters, BoardSource should be one of your first stops.