Author’s Note: This post is the last part in an eight-part series on the strategic framework of the nonprofit organization — United Way for Southeastern Michigan. Click here to read the full series.
Countless books have been published about nonprofit governance and the role of the board. When creating or growing a board, most organizations use a demographic filter to ensure the right representation of industries, genders, races, etc. This is critical, and attention should be paid to it. But beyond that, what criteria do you have for people who join your board?
At United Way for Southeastern Michigan, we landed on three main attributes (as illustrated in the graphic above) beyond the traditional demographic considerations that we use to select board members: passion, expertise, and resources.
Passion: A potential board member can have many attributes that are attractive, but if his or her passion does not align with the mission of the organization, the fit won’t work. I have seen individuals who would get check marks for all the things most organizations would love in a board member, and yet the mission isn’t the thing that moves them. We find this attribute non-negotiable. Members must have passion for the work.
Expertise: It has become increasingly important for board members to have expertise in an area that is central to the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission. Traditionally, this has meant areas such as finance, auditing, legal, etc., but expertise in governance, volunteer engagement, and change management are also extremely valuable.
Resources: This seems like an obvious attribute, but it is one that organizations often overlook. Many nonprofits have boards comprised of passionate individuals, but no capability to leverage resources to advance the mission. With a premium on impact, having board members who can connect talent, money, or partners to the mission ensures a greater chance of achieving key organizational goals. One issue many nonprofits face is board members who can leverage resources, but won’t. Potential board members must be willing to network and use their resources on behalf of the organization and its mission.
These three elements are essential to the organization getting critical work done. You should use them as guideposts when recruiting new board members and motivating current ones.
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