Your organization’s board recruitment goals will change depending on where your nonprofit is in its life cycle. There’s just one problem. Perhaps there was a time when people could describe a fairly predictable, steady trajectory for the life of a nonprofit board. Not so in today’s economy.
Today, an organization that is thriving one day can lose a major anchor funder the very next day. For example, a key funder could be a company that shuts down or is acquired, or an individual whose finances are wrapped up with the wrong investor, or a city government that has lost its commercial base. On the other hand, I am seeing nonprofits receive significant infusions of cash that are game-changers. For example, there are nonprofits receiving substantial new federal grants or contributions from individual donors or private foundations that are shifting their focus to fewer causes and organizations.
Organizational life cycles are also radically affected as nonprofits enter a multitude of strategic alliances – a more and more common phenomenon. Even more game-changing are nonprofit mergers.
When organizations go through such dramatic revenue changes, as well as strategic alliances, the pressure on boards to adapt can be fairly fierce. New pressures are driving some boards to be clearer about board member expectations, board assessment, plans for leadership succession and board composition.
1) Before deciding whom you need to recruit for your board, think about the following:
2) What was the driving purpose to establish your organization in the first place, even if that was long ago? It’s valuable to put today in a historical context.
3) What’s your mission today? Is it still relevant and compelling?
4) What’s your vision for the organization’s greater potential over the coming years?
5) What’s your revenue model – your key sources of revenue (government, fees for services, philanthropy; corporate, individual, foundation)?
6) What are key challenges and opportunities going forward?
Assessing where your board stands
Based on numbers two through five above (the mission, the vision, the revenue model, and key challenges and opportunities), consider the extent to which your board has the diversity of expertise, experience, perspectives, networks and relationships to:
Ensure there is a strategy for financial and programmatic success, and plans to update the strategy in an iterative way (board in collaboration with the CEO).
Ensure there are metrics for the board and funders to monitor financial and programmatic progress (board in collaboration with the CEO).
Provide financial and fiduciary oversight.
Select board members with leadership potential for leadership succession planning.
Determining whom you need on your board to advance the mission
Based on “where your board stands” (above), consider the qualifications you seek as you identify and recruit new board members. Think about recruiting new board members with:
Diversity of perspectives.
Experience and expertise in particular areas such as: finance, accounting, public relations, law, strategic planning and the mission area on which the nonprofit focuses.
Ability to directly provide support or make valuable introductions in key revenue areas that are relevant to your nonprofit – for example, government relations, corporate funding, private donors, foundations, or pricing for fees for services.
A firm commitment to meet the board’s expectations to be engaged productively in the ways you discuss and define together with the candidate.
The era of lengthy terms of board service and board leadership are over. Historically, board chairs served for many years, and board composition remained stagnant sometimes for decades. In today’s challenging and enterprising environment, boards and their CEOs need to be engaged in iterative organizational planning, a highly dynamic process of assessing the board and identification and recruitment of board members who can and will commit to advance the organization in serving the community.