Recruiting Nonprofit Board Members: What Is the Most Important Characteristic to Seek?
 

Recruiting Nonprofit Board Members: What Is the Most Important Characteristic to Seek?

Recruiting Nonprofit Board Members: What Is the Most Important Characteristic to Seek?You’re recruiting board members. Which of the following represents the top trait to pursue?

  1. Candidates with high-net-worth who can make large donations,
  2. Individuals who know lots of people who will make lots of introductions,
  3. People who work well with others, or
  4. Something else.

The Answer

The answer is d. Something else. While having board members with means, great connections and people skills represent desirable characteristics, you need members who can think strategically.

Why are people who think strategically so valuable on boards? They help you to grapple with critical questions, make thoughtful policies, and to uncover new options for moving forward with an analytical eye. People who think strategically can shift their perspective from imagining putting their hand in the Colorado River to standing up on the rim of the Grand Canyon, and all the ledges in between. This perspective shifting ability allows them to see benefits, challenges, and consequences of options before you choose amongst them or make expensive investments in them.

Evidence of Strategic Thinking

What do behaviors indicate that individuals think in this useful manner? He or she-

  • Offers a historical viewpoint. For example, when someone mentions a hot political issue, the nominee notes how the country once dealt with a similar challenge.
  • Asks questions that uncover the method behind results. For instance, your gala committee’s abuzz with the headline news that the symphony raised $250,000. Instead of begin dazzled by the outcome, your candidate’s curious. How did the symphony do it? He or she asks, how many years have they had the gala? And, how did they do it two years ago?
  • Extracts themes or through-lines in discussions. Your prospect comments, “We seem to come back to three issues: money, staff, and the need for a new roof.”
  • Asks perplexing questions that upon reflection seem obvious. “Long-term, what will be the impact on our brand from accepting a sponsorship from the casino?”
  • Imagines themselves in other’s shoes. After Florence, Irma, or Michael, your prospective members asked, “What would happen a similar storm struck our area?”

Your ideal board candidate will think strategically, have means, great contacts, and outstanding team skills. However, if you have candidates who only have some of these characteristics, prioritize people who think big picture and long-term. These individuals will help you to think about how to help find other people with means, great connections, and people skills. For more help on board recruitment or to join my mentoring program in January, email Karen.

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