As the leader, I believe it is my job to collaborate with the board to set high but attainable expectations as to how they will function. In my experience, board members want to be involved but they want staff to be in charge and guide them along the way.
Fundraising is scary for most volunteers. It is a rare find to recruit a person to the board who is completely comfortable with making the ask. If you have that gem on your board, congratulations!
Skills and Assets
Starting with a solid nomination and vetting process is key. Taking a “skills and asset” inventory of your current board helps with recruiting. You want a diverse board comprised of people who complement your organization, along with varying skill sets and circles of influence.
Additionally, you will want potential board members to have a solid understanding as to why philanthropy is important to your organization. Demonstrating the “why” by taking them on a tour and introducing them to the people being served is a smart place to begin.
Several years ago, we started asking, “How do we know if we are successful?”
That simple question helped develop a board recruitment strategy with results that have exceeded expectation. The process took time, conversations, and collegial collaboration with the current board to create a strategic recruitment plan.
Here are the steps:
- The skills and asset inventory list are reviewed to determine who else is needed on the board.
- The board has an opportunity to recommend potential members who are vetted in advance of a meeting.
- As Chief Development Officer, I meet with the candidate and explain we are always looking for qualified people to add to our pool of potential board members; I explain the board’s role, time commitment expectations, and participation by giving to the annual fund and special gifts. We also discuss their ability and willingness to identify people within their circle of influence that we will start to engage. We talk about their experiences with our organization and why they are interested in serving. It’s key to be an attentive listener in this meeting.
- We give them time to consider whether they wish to move forward in the process.
- If the candidate says yes, the next step is a formal interview with the board chair, other board members, and the organization’s CEO.
- If all goes well, they are invited to join the board.
At each meeting, our board chair reminds the members why we are there and what their role is as an individual and as a group. We want our board members to be successful and feel their volunteer experience is meaningful.
At the beginning of the fiscal year, each member receives a list of opportunities for involvement. Each opportunity has points assigned to it and their participation is based on a point system.
Each meeting, board members receive their personal and confidential engagement score to see how they are doing. We present the entire group score so they can evaluate how they are performing as a board.
This system has helped the board members stay on course. While it took a year to develop, there was buy-in from the beginning because they were involved in creating the system.
Each year, I have a 1:1 meeting with each board member. This is an opportunity to hear feedback about their board experience, offer any new insights, etc. We review their activities and set individual engagement goals for the following year.
An Engaged Board Is an Effective Board
This strategy has kept the board interested and engaged in fundraising, although it is an ongoing process. They can see how their participation makes a difference.
All of this takes time, but to help a board realize their value by supporting the mission is worth every minute.