The must-have skills for your associate board posted 05/07/13

By Jonathan Goldford
Board Member

A new associate board is very much like a new business or nonprofit. You need the skills that allow you to serve the organization, and in your case, this means both financially and by further engaging with the community. Before hopping into the different skills you need, there are a couple of characteristics you always want from your new board members. Each person must:

  • Have a unique skill set. It’s probably not a good idea to have a young friends board filled only with accountants.
  • Have a passion for the organization. If you’re starting an associate board for a cancer-related organization, people who have been touched by cancer generally will invest more time and money into the organization.
  • Have the time to get involved. Bringing the most popular person you know onto the board is great but, especially for associate boards, the board members must have the time to invest in the position.
  • Enjoy working with the board. This is a little tougher to determine before they join the board, but like a job, a board member will probably contribute more if they actually enjoy what they’re doing.

With an idea of the type of person you want to join your associate board, let’s discuss the skills you need for the board to thrive.

Nonprofit expertise

Having someone within your associate board who understands the way nonprofits function can be crucial to your success. They’ll help you communicate effectively with the parent organization, and can provide advice on how to run events, find volunteers and generate organizational support. You can recruit a young nonprofit professional from your area, or you can ask that a staff member from the parent organization serve on your board.

Event planning

Most young friends boards spend the majority of their time raising money and awareness through events. That’s why it’s critical to recruit someone with event marketing experience. They’ll have all the logistics covered that you’d never think of. What equipment do you need for each event? How should you sell tickets? How much should you charge? What volunteers will you need during the event? Trust me, they’ll make your life much easier.

Marketing and public relations

Since it’s likely most of your money and awareness will be raised through events, having at least one board member who can promote those events will be hugely helpful. Aside from that, a strong marketing team will help you tailor your message to the specific goals of the associate board.

Graphic design

If possible, it’s best to avoid the situation where someone on your board says “uh, who is going to design the flyer for our event?” Not only can a graphic designer create flyers, but they can also help you create a logo for your young friends board, design a portion of the parent organization’s website, develop letterhead, and create a number of other materials you’ll need for the board.


Legal tends to be one of those areas people forget about, but is so important. Whenever you need an important document reviewed or created, it’s great to have this skill at hand. Plus, there’s no shortage of law firms to find someone to fit the bill.


Having an accountant on your young friends board isn’t a requirement, but they can make raising and handling money much easier. They’ll help you budget throughout the year and for events, as well as help you set financial goals for your board.

Leadership or management experience

Just like in a company, it’s great to have someone who can chart a course for the associate board and ensure everything is getting done. The person who fills this role can come from any industry and really, an organization of any size.

Remember what I mentioned at the beginning though. Aside from the skills I provided here, you want to fill the board with people who are excited to get involved and love the cause you’re working towards. Those people will ensure long-term success for your associate board.

That’s my list. How about you? Did I miss any necessary skills? Any other characteristics that are worth looking for in a board member? Let us know in the comments.

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