March 5, 2018

Lasso the Future: Move Noncommittal Board Recruitment Candidates Off the Fence

Today’s the day. You plan to ask a candidate whom you’ve vetted and wooed for months to serve on your board. You plan what to say if they answer yes or no. But how will you respond if they tell you, “I want to think about it?” How will you graciously allow think-time but avoid holding open space for them “just in case,” while the candidate slowly disappears off your radar screen?

You pursued this candidate for what they can offer your organization. Without their help, your organization will miss out on their resources and contributions. Collectively, a full board allows you to maximize your impact. Instead of waiting for new members to make an important decision, full boards have one less excuse to wait on discussing critical agenda items, such as ensuring adequate funds exist to fund the mission.

While you value any candidate’s willingness to think over your request, how might you avoid relationship limbo, hoping they’ll call, wondering if it’s too soon to call, etc.

Throw a lasso into the future.

Let me explain. Establish your next step together. The next step is your lasso, a specific date you mark on your calendar.

Let’s imagine your meeting. The moment is perfect, so you ask the person to serve on your board. Your prospective board member thanks you for the offer. He or she asks a few questions and then tells you that they need time to think it.

You could thank them and leave this open-ended, or you can lasso the future.

Deciding to lasso the future you ask: “After you think about it, what would you like to do next?”

Or, you jump to the assumptive. You offer options, such as:

“After you think about it, would you like me to-

  • Call you next week,
  • Email you Friday,
  • Or, set up a time to meet now?

If your candidate hedges toss a date around any vague plans. For instance, if they reply they’ll get back to you, you respond, “Great, you’ll call me and let me know. Because we all get so busy, I’m making a note in my calendar to call you by next Friday If I haven’t heard from you.”

You lasso the future when you have a time and action in your planner.

In rare cases, a candidate may bristle at your insistence. Apologize and explain your concern for the organization. You may share that you committed to your board, nominating committee, or someone, that you’d recruit new candidates this month. Affirm that you’d love them to serve, but that you understand it may not work out, and, that whatever their decision, you want to stay in contact.

If you’re unable to lasso the future when you’re with the candidate, decide for them. Jot a note on your calendar that indicates when you will move on to other prospects. After all, if a board recruitment candidate struggling with this decision, how will they decide when they are serving?

As I write this, my son’s immersed in studying for the California bar. On one of his breaks, he reminded me that the studying isn’t so bad. What was hard was getting started. When board candidates tell you they want to think about it, let this be your cue to you lasso the future and help them get back to you.

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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