What Is the Most Important Board Characteristic to Seek?

Group of people having a discussion at a table.You’re recruiting board members. Which of the following represents the top characteristic to pursue?

  1. High-net-worth candidates who can make a large donation
  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 it’s desirable to recruit board members with means, great connections, and people skills, what you need most is members who can think strategically.

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

Evidence of That You’ve Found Gold When Recruiting Board Members 

What behaviors indicate that an individual thinks strategically? He or she-

  • Offers a historical viewpoint. For example, when someone mentions a hot political issue, the nominee notes how the country dealt with a similar challenge.
  • Ask questions that uncover tactics behind results. For instance, your gala committee’s abuzz with the headline news that the symphony raised $250,000. Instead of being dazzled by the revenue, the candidate’s curious. How did the symphony do it?  How many years have they held a gala? And how much did they raise two years ago?
  • Outlines themes or through-lines from discussions. The 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 casino sponsorship?”
  • Imagines themselves in others’ shoes. After a hurricane elsewhere, your prospective member asks, “What would happen a similar storm struck our area?”

Perfect board candidates think strategically, have means, great contacts, and outstanding team skills. However, if your candidates only have some of these characteristics, prioritize people who think the big picture and long-term. These individuals will help find people with means, great connections, and people skills.

Read: Why Do People Join Nonprofit Boards?

Watch: How to Cure Common Nonprofit  Board Recruitment Headaches

Watch: Executive Directors, Do You Know This Secret to Nonprofit Board Success?

For more answers, check out this Nonprofit  CEO Library.

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If you’d like to even more about board recruitment or dynamic nonprofit boards, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I’d love to help you recruit and create a nonprofit board that launches your nonprofit onward and upward.

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis Consulting guides executive directors and CEOs to generate the resources, boards, and support they need to make remarkable progress on their missions. As the award-winning thought-leader, advisor, and founding principal of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, Karen helps nonprofit leaders get answers, generate revenue, and grow their mission. Davis is known for her innovation and practicality based on her work with or visits to over 1,000 nonprofit organizations and her experience leading board and team events. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.