A Few Simple Rules for Choosing the Right Board Members posted 10/19/15

By Jon Franko

At Launch St. Louis, a huge part of what we do is recruitment – in one capacity or another. Sometimes we need to help our partner non-profit, currently the Young Friends of Brightside St. Louis, fill open board positions. Sometimes we need to recruit folks to our own board at Launch St. Louis. Sometimes we just need to add a committee member or two.

Regardless of the need, the resumes we’re looking for are similar, and in this blog post, I will share some of the things I do/consider when looking for good candidates. This is a process that works for me, but it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the only process that works. In fact, in the “Leave A Comment” section below, I’d love to hear what works for you, as I’m always looking to make my process better.

“Invite” the evangelists

The first step in finding the right folks to get involved in your 501©3 is by allowing the folks who WANT to get involved in your 501©3 to raise their hands. Sure – we all “know people.” And I feel like that’s often the process for how boards go about looking for new members. Sometimes it works great. But sometimes it doesn’t.

In addition to interviewing connections you already have, what about inviting the folks who are already interested in your organization? Maybe they visit your website often. Maybe they’ve subscribed to your newsletter. Maybe they’re volunteering on the weekends and are often coming back to your site to learn more about other opportunities to get involved. This is a great pool to tap into for board growth. These are people who WANT to get involved, versus a group that is being TALKED into getting involved. There’s a big difference in my opinion.

Put a form on your website that allows your organization’s evangelists – who you may or may not know – to sign up to be considered for deeper involvement. I think you’ll be surprised at the results. This is how Launch St. Louis recruits 95% of our board and committee members and it’s working great. Click here to see what I’m talking about – especially if you want to get involved.

Phone call first, look for “reliability” every step of the way

Don’t waste your time. Don’t waste a potential board member’s time. Set up a call to talk basics before you ever agree to meet. After all – meetings add up, take time and we’re all busy!

When you set up that initial phone call, don’t send a reminder or a calendar invite of any sorts. Put it on the candidate to be reliable and show continued interest. If they forget the call and don’t follow up right away with a good excuse, that’s a red flag.

Reliability is an incredibly important characteristic to look for in your board members. No one wants to build a board that’s composed of a bunch of folks who are looking to do nothing more than build a resume. After the phone call, set up a meeting. But again, no reminder or calendar invites. You’ll weed out the folks that you can’t count on – which to me, is vital to the board-building process.

Reliable? Check. But what else?

Reliability isn’t the only thing to look for in a candidate you’re courting for your board. There are lots of other considerations.

For instance, do their talents and passions match up with the mission of the nonprofit? Does their personality mesh with the organization as a whole? It’s great to have leaders, but can they also follow when needed? Do they have the potential to bring new ideas and fresh thinking to your organization? Are they connected locally? Nationally? If so, that’s great. But I’d rather have someone that’s vested and wanting to help out often, than a big name that is constantly “absent” at board meetings and events.

No matter what questions or criteria you have, it’s important to think about how a candidate’s involvement will ultimately help the nonprofit in its mission and future growth. Trust your gut – if it feels right, it probably is. If it doesn’t, well, that’s a red flag and you might not have the right candidate.

What did I miss?

As I mentioned earlier, these are just a few of the things that help guide me when I recruit. What’d I miss? What rules or guidelines do you have? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

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