On Nonprofit Boards… Recently, I returned from a National Advisory Board meeting for the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health. As is standard for most organizations, the Executive Director asked us to nominate others who we believe would a good fit to serve as a board member.
I could see the eyes of my fellow board members searching in the back of their brains for a name. If I could have listened in, I probably would have heard them naming off their list of friends one-by-one, “no, not Ann she’s overcommitted but Mark just rotated off that one board and he owes me a favor …) The list probably branched out to people they interact with on social occasions or at a recent fundraiser. You’ve been in one of those meetings? Right?
This is called “Giving Up Your Friends.” Why? Because you provide every name which pops into your thoughts at the time you are asked.
But is the name you give a good fit for the organization? Recruiting for nonprofit boards should share some of the same characteristics you use in the business world of hiring. For your business to be successful you need a variety of employees; someone who is strategic, an accounting guru and someone who is good with people and various other talents and skills which fit with your business strategies.
It’s the same when you are asked to identify candidates for service as a board member.
Do you know the skills and expertise you are looking for? You certainly don’t want a room full of accountants or a room full of event planners. A good matrix of skill sets is recommended. Taproot Foundation suggests every board should have experts in technology, marketing, human resources. Also, don’t forget the strategist who helps to define what overall needs are.
If you are scratching your head and trying to think of someone in each of these categories, Taproot Foundation even provides a search tool to check the bios (by ZIP code) of those in your area who are on LinkedIn. Just visit http://bit.ly/18tZjAA.
Have you analyzed your board composition? If everyone in the room is the same age range, gender, and social group then it’s time to diversify. By creating a simple chart which lists out the expertise your board needs (perhaps you need an attorney, real estate agent or military member) you can visually identify what demographic and expertise your board holds and what areas you are missing.
Want to reflect the community? Take a look at census statistics. According to the Develop Abilene website: Abilene is nearly split 50/50 on males and females, our median age is 31 and we are nearly 75 percent Caucasian, 25 percent Hispanic and 9 percent African-American (this equals more than 100 percent due to multiple ethnicities).
You serve on a board or multiple boards because you either have a passion about the nonprofit’s mission or because you believe it is your civic responsibility. Perhaps it’s time to take a business style approach to finding new talent.
Years ago, I donned the Brownie uniform as a member of the Girl Scouts. One of the very first songs we learned to sing was “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold.” Perhaps it’s time to “Give Up Your Friends” in a different way. Simply reframe the process and give up naming your closest friends to find a few new ones.
This November 2013 column by Kristina E Jones is reprinted with permission from the Abilene Reporter-News.