The six worst—and best—reasons to recruit business executives to your board

Many nonprofit executives, development officers and board members are eager to recruit business people from diverse backgrounds to their boards because they think business people will come in and solve their financial and strategic challenges. Other nonprofit leaders are more circumspect about recruiting business people to the board. Who’s correct–the believers or the cynics? Both.

Here are the six WORST reasons to recruit business people to your nonprofit board of directors:

Assume they’ll give you lots of money.

Assume they’ll get their corporations to give you money.

Assume they’ll raise money from rich friends and colleagues.

Assume they’ll bring business expertise to the table.

Assume they’ll be dedicated board members.

Assume they’ll be passionate about the mission.

Here are the six BEST reasons to recruit business people to your nonprofit board of directors:

Expect they’ll give you lots of money.

Expect they’ll get their corporations to give you money.

Expect they’ll raise money from rich friends and colleagues.

Expect they’ll bring business expertise to the table.

Expect they’ll be dedicated board members.

Expect they’ll be passionate about the mission.

Let me explain.

Having trained and placed several hundred business executives on global, national and regional nonprofit boards, I can attest to the tremendous value they provide to the boards they serve. In fact, the vast majority of these board members have ascended to board leadership positions, including serving as board chairs and officers and heading up capital campaigns, strategic alliances and other game-changing initiatives.

The keys to getting business people on board who will actually bring the resources, business acumen, dedication and passion the board needs in order to advance the organization are the following:

establishing a purposeful and thoughtful match between the board candidate and your organization, based on what the candidate has and wants to offer and what your board needs.

having candid conversations with the board candidate about the financial and strategic challenges facing your organization and how the board hopes she or he in particular can add value–in very specific terms, such as financial contributions, fundraising, expertise, time and introductions.

understanding what about the organization is compelling to the particular candidate and making sure the role you need and expect him or her to play will be personally meaningful and rewarding.

organizing the board so that board members can engage meaningfully and productively and making sure there is adequate staff support for the board to deliver.

Boards and board members become disillusioned and disappointed with each other when expectations are not clear upfront, the board environment is too dysfunctional for board members to engage productively, and there is a failure in leadership to advance forward momentum.

Boards and board members thrive when expectations are established and agreed upon at the outset, the board is organized for efficiency and effectiveness, the staff supports the board in implementing its work, and the board chair and CEO work in partnership to engage the board in maximizing its potential.

The best boards work in collaboration with the CEO to envision the organization’s greater potential, determine and commit to core programs for high impact, establish a sustainable revenue model, and work in concert to achieve strategic and financial success. The best boards are comprised of people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives who together have a deeper understanding of the issues they are addressing and the capacity to find the best solutions. Click here for more specific information and articles on building quality boards.

Boards that recruit and engage business people purposefully and thoughtfully will gain the full benefit of their business acumen, passion, commitment, financial resources and introductions. And a board comprised of people from diverse backgrounds with the will and the might to succeed will propel the organization to achieve its greatest potential in service to the community.

See also:

Leveraging Good Will

The Nonprofit Leadership Team

Leaders Make the Future

Image credit: theburnerblog.com

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