Perhaps your nonprofit has lost a few board members in the turmoil of the past few years. Or maybe your current lineup simply isn’t meeting your organization’s leadership challenges. There are many reasons to review and rebuild a board of directors. But there’s no excuse to ignore problems and hope they’ll work themselves out. Here’s how to perform a board makeover.
Start by assessing your current board. For example, determine whether your board has too few, too many or the right number of members. The correct board size depends on many factors, including your organization’s complexity of operations, annual revenue and number of people served.
Increasingly, diversity and inclusion are critical for nonprofit boards. Make sure your board reflects your community and constituents and is diverse by gender, race, religion, geography, age, expertise or other relevant factors. In general, it’s a good idea to have at least one financial professional on your board. Depending on your mission, you may want to include other experts, for example, legal or public relations professionals.
Some nonprofits ask board members to sign contracts outlining their commitment — including the time they’ll spend, the funds they promise to donate or raise, and the duties they’ll perform. If you choose to have your board members sign such a contract, make sure they’re holding up their end of the bargain while they’re serving.
From what you have to what you need
As you assess what you have, identify the talents your organization needs. For instance, you may need someone with local government experience, someone who represents the LGBTQ community, or someone with strong public speaking skills. In general, qualified board members are enthusiastic about your mission, are good team players and are willing to attend all or most board functions.
Just as you would for a paid leadership position, assemble a pool of candidates for each board seat. In many organizations, current board members supply candidates’ names. If finding the right people has been a challenge, ask friends, business colleagues and family members for suggestions. Also look to your volunteer pool for people who might be qualified.
Another idea is to invite a couple dozen community leaders to an informational luncheon to learn about your organization. At the event, ask each to recommend a potential board member. Some may even be interested in applying themselves.
After you’ve identified a group of prospective candidates, have each fill out an application that outlines at least some of your expectations. To determine whether potential board members will be able to make a meaningful contribution, ask them to provide personal statements that define their passion for your cause. And be sure to invite prospects to attend a board meeting to meet current members and see how the board functions.
Finally, vote on the candidates, keeping in mind your “gaps” and the roles you hope they’ll fill. The process may take some work, but maintaining a responsible, knowledgeable and passionate board will pay off in years to come.