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.