Monday, April 12, 2010

Building the Best Boards Contest - Other Entries

We received many outstanding entries for our "Build the Best Board" contest. We will include some of those here on our blog over the next couple of weeks.

I have seen many nonprofit staff and board members approach board recruitment with almost an apology.

“I hate to ask this of you because I know you’re such a busy person but we need a couple new members to fill our board… Would you ever consider this?”

The underlying attitude (and message sent to the prospective board member) is that, “We won’t impose on you. We’re asking you to do us this favor.” This often leads to a sort of “bait-and-switch” situation then where the board member attends a meeting and finds out that, in addition to the one hour-long meeting a month you mentioned to them, they also will be asked to donate, serve on a committee, help with fundraisers and the Christmas party, etc. And when the new board member is surprised by these requests and unavailable to help, he or she feels guilty (and very possibly deceived) and sometimes resigns swiftly as a result.

I think nonprofits need to change their “apologist” approach to board member recruiting to focus on the honor it is being asked to serve. Service is proven to be good for one’s health and most people have the desire to “give back. By asking talented individuals to serve on your board you are helping them meet one of their own personal needs, publicly acknowledging their skills and abilities, and offering them an opportunity to share what they know for the good of their community.

So changing the mindset around board recruitment and then supporting the board member invitation with a very clear, specific and accurate board member position description so there is no confusion that we’re asking for your time, your expertise, your critical thinking, your charity…makes that invitation an honor not an apology and it circumvents the misconceptions about what is expected that lead to disengagement and/or resignation.

Chris Fastner
VISTA Program Manager
Initiative Foundation

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