When times are tough, nonprofits rely on their board of directors for leadership more than ever. Unfortunately, not every nonprofit board is equipped to lead well in a crisis. They might not have enough people, or lack the knowledge and experience that is needed to meet the latest challenge. If your board isn’t providing the leadership your nonprofit needs, you should consider replacing some of its members. Chances are that the current problems in public health, financial security, and operational disruptions will continue for some time. For many of those who benefit from our nonprofit audit services, it’s time to adapt. Here are some steps you can take to ensure our NPO has the board it needs.
Evaluate your current Board
Before making changes to your Board’s membership, it’s important to evaluate who you have.
As things stand, do you have the right number of people on the Board? How many people you need depends on several factors, such as your organizational complexity and scope of mission.
Think about who is on the Board. Do they adequately represent your constituency? Adequate representation can include many factors such as gender, race, religion, geography, age, and expertise, among other things. It’s best to ensure that the makeup of your Board is appropriate to the mission.
Is each Board member a match for your mission? To answer this question, each member should write a personal expression of why they are committed to the cause and your organization’s approach to it.
What is each member’s contribution? One way to find this out is if your NPO has board members sign contracts for their commitment. This can include time, money, fundraising efforts, or other duties like providing professional services. Whether there’s a contract or not, it’s important to ensure everyone is pulling their weight.
Once you know what everyone is contributing, think about what gaps exist in the current lineup. For instance, you might need a financial professional or someone who works with the local government, and these gaps are an opportunity to add members. Generally, you should consider people who work well on a team, strongly believe in your mission and can commit to attending board functions. Ideally, they should be able to communicate and engage in public speaking as needed.
Identify suitable candidates
Your first step is the same as a paid management talent search: finding people who are suitable to occupy each board opening. Many nonprofits solicit suggestions from existing board members. However, there are other options if this technique isn’t working well enough:
- During public events, make an announcement that you’re looking for volunteers. Also mention you need new board members.
- Ask around: Your friends, family, and colleagues might know someone who can fill the position.
- Advertise the positions like you would a job opening. This could mean newspaper ads, newsletters, email announcements, and industry publications.
- Evaluate existing volunteers to see if any of them have the qualifications you need on the board.
- Solicit leads from the community. You can do this by hosting a lunch presentation with local leaders where you tell them about your organization. Then, ask if they know anyone who might be suitable for your board position..
Once you have a list of leads, approach them and ask them to apply. Make sure they understand what’s expected. The best candidates should be invited to a board meeting where they can meet everyone. Then, interview each person to find the right fit.
Pick the best candidates
After interviews are conducted, the board should reach a consensus on which candidates should be chosen. By following these procedures, your nonprofit should be able to add the right expertise to help weather this storm.
Download our Nonprofit Governance Guide – a guide for Nonprofit Boardmembers.