As the end of the year approaches, nonprofit organizations have many items to plan for the new year. One of these items may be replacing members of its governing board.  Often times, the strength and operational success of a nonprofit organization depends on the engagement, devotion, and knowledge of its board of directors. As such, it is extremely important for nonprofit organizations to plan for board succession. What should a nonprofit organization look for in new board members? How does a nonprofit organization solicit new board members?

In looking for new board members, an organization should first consider the size of their organization and the time commitment required. Organizations should only consider new board members who will have the ability to complete the obligations to the board. The organization should properly communicate the requirements of serving on the board to prospective board members to eliminate the possibility of board members not meeting expectations.

The type of board positions should also be considered. For example, if a treasurer position on the board is opening, organizations should look for candidates who have a financial background. Organizations may also benefit from candidates who have past experience serving on other nonprofit boards or those who have industry experience in the organization’s area of operations. Organizations should start by asking what does the nonprofit need to advance its mission right now and in the future? A board member with financial expertise? Connections in the community? Someone familiar with the individuals served by the nonprofit?

After considering the type of candidate the board is looking for, the next path is soliciting new members. Resources from existing board members is an obvious first step an organization can take. Existing board members may have a friend or colleague who would make a great board member. If a specialized board member is needed, such as a treasurer, an organization may consider reaching out to area financial institutions, accounting firms, or investment advisors to see if they have anyone who may consider serving on the board. Another great source may be reaching out to the various professional networking organizations in the Black Hills region such as the Young Professionals Group, Leadership Rapid City, or BNI International.

Current volunteers of an organization may also make good board members.  They know the organization and are already loyal to the cause.  Not all volunteers want to serve on a board, but others may cherish the opportunity of serving as a board member.  Board members who have volunteer experience with an 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 rough idea of how things work.

Some nonprofits may have a governance committee, or a group of management and board members who are responsible for identifying and evaluating potential board members.  The governance committee will monitor board members meeting term limits, be watchful for prospective board members and recruit new members.  This group can also be responsible for properly training new board members.

The recruitment process requires both screening a candidate and creating interest of a potential future board member until he or she is ready to accept an invitation to become an ambassador and advocate for the nonprofit. The board of directors serve as governance of a nonprofit organization and ultimately are responsible for the oversight of operations. Being a board member is a very serious commitment and one which should be carefully considered.

For additional information, please contact any of Ketel Thorstenson’s nonprofit experts.