Go find some great board members

June 8, 2018

InĀ Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership, she spends a lot of time talking about getting the instructions correctly before going out on the task of recruitment of board members.

“Can you imagine the general manager of the New York Yankees sending out scouts without a plan? Imagine this directive: Go find some great ballplayers. What would the recruiter do with that? Now consider this assignment: We need a left-handed, middle-inning reliever. I need a power-hitting designated hitter who has a name that will sell tickets. Well, now he has something to work with. The same goes for board members. Create a matrix of the ideal board and talk about it at a full board meeting. Talk about skills, experience, and diversity, but don’t forget attributes — diplomacy, facilitation skills, leadership potential. Without this, the board members will hear this from the recruitment committee: I need two names from your Rolodex you think would make great board members. Two substantive problems here: (1) people don’t have Roldexes anymore and (2) board members need direction and clarity about what the board needs.”

To me, this is gospel. Far too often, we try to “dumb down” the task at hand — whether it be recruiting for the next board member, collecting money (a collection has no goal — a campaign does), or hiring development staff. Each of the aforementioned initiatives takes some planning and forethought. Ask yourself what will success look like?

By being specific in your needs, you will be able to be specific in measuring your results. If they are vague, your evaluation of the results will be ineffective. Far too often, I hear boards/management say that “we need money”. That is a horrible statement for a myriad of reasons, but the more sophisticated donors will want some sort of plan — what are you going to do with the money I give you? What is the impact?

The more specificity there is, the more the likelihood of success.