Where to Find the Best Board Members

I spent ten years as a nonprofit executive director for an arts fundraising organization. During that time I saw a lot of board members come and go. Some were amazing, most were adequate and a few were total flops.

When I look back on those amazing board members there were a few commonalities among most of them…

These folks were mid-level executives, maybe 10 to 15 years into their career. They weren’t yet in the C-suite. They weren’t yet commonly known in the community. They were highly networked. They had good things to offer, but they weren’t the “it” person at their company just yet. They were a step removed from that – and they were awesome board members!

They had the time and the passion to serve on the board. They had drive. They wanted and needed to get active in the community before they could take the next step in their career.

So, as you’re looking for some fresh faces and new energy on your board, I’d encourage you to look for these folks. Those mid-level executives that have the drive to get to the top, but haven’t yet arrived. They’re another 10-15 years from the high point in their careers. You could even call them the “heir apparent” at their companies.

So what do you do with the regular old crowd? You know, those folks that have been on every board in town. The folks that talk about this way: “Oh, you need to get to know George,” or, “You need to meet Sue. She can help your nonprofit.” Well, I’ll go meet with George or Sue but I say something along the lines of “You know we love your company and we want to partner with you. We’d love some board representation, but you’re not who I want. You’re too busy. You’re already incredibly active in the community. I want your number two. Who is your person who needs to be more engaged in the community, who wants that engagement but isn’t quite there yet?” That’s the person who makes an awesome board member.

Don’t be afraid to have that conversation. Think about who that could be in your community. Have those conversations with some of your business leaders and find those hidden gems who are going to be incredible board members for your organization.

Board Fundraising Menu

Do you have a “fundraising board?” Did that question just make you laugh?

If so, you are not alone, many (most) nonprofit organizations struggle with engaging their board in the fundraising process. In my experience the issue typically comes down to the lack of one (or a combination of the following):

  • Clarity on their role;
  • Knowledge on how to perform their role;
  • Motivation to complete their role

Productive Fundraising’s “Board Fundraising Menu” helps to address each of these issues by providing a list of 30+ ways that these members can assist with helping your reach your goals. It is designed as an exercise that board members complete where they indicate which tasks they are comfortable and willing to assist with. Download the sample to create a custom menu for your organization. And then you can begin moving your board to a more engaged state!

Download It Here

Put Fundraising Expectations in Your Board Job Description

Put Fundraising Expectations in Your Board Job Description

Perhaps the most common complaint that I hear from fundraisers and executive directors is “my board won’t fundraise.”

On closer examination it almost always comes down to unclear expectations or lack of knowledge — not an outright avoidance of all fundraising activity.  The vast majority of nonprofit board members understand that they need to be a part of the resource development process.  Most just don’t know how to do that unless you, the fundraiser,  tell them, teach them and guide them.

So what’s the easy fix here?  Spell out your organization’s board fundraising expectations from the very beginning of the relationship.  The easiest way to do this is to put your fundraising expectations in your board job description (there’s a sample one in @fundraiserchad’s Free Resource Library).

Obviously not every item on the board job description will be fundraising related, but a few of the listed responsibilities should be.  They should also be specific.  Something like “in collaboration with other directors, assist in the resource development process” is not going to get it done — they know that they need to do something, but they still don’t know exactly what or how.

Here are a few concrete examples of potential fundraising expectations to include in a board job description:

  • Approve fund development goals and plans;
  • Participate in fundraising activities (especially in regard to identification and cultivation of prospective donors);
  • Make introductions to prospective donors (some organizations set a yearly quota on this one, e.g. a minimum of three);
  • Secure their businesses’ contribution to the annual campaign;
  • Attend all organizational sponsored events (include a list of what & when these are);
  • Make a personally significant contribution to the Fund’s annual campaign (some organizations have a minimum that they list in the job description).

Having a board job description, which includes key fundraising expectations, will make a huge difference in finding the right board members for your organization who are motivated and willing to help you take it to the next level.