As I work with Executive Directors of nonprofits, I keep hearing the theme that finding the right board members continues to be a challenge. Admittedly some of the difficulty is that a nonprofit board needs to change over time, so this isn’t a static process. My colleague Bob Cryer explained this evolution in a recent post.
This need for a continuous flow of board candidates requires a lot of networking, generally among folks we typically don’t interact with day-to-day. Yet there is a source for board members that may be more readily accessible to the typical nonprofit: Other nonprofit leaders.
A December 2010 blog by Jan Masaoka entitled “Finding the Right Next Board to Join” (http://www.blueavocado.org/node/604) reminded me that a great source of effective board members is the leadership ranks of other nonprofits. Every board needs the right mix of expertises, so loading up with others from the nonprofit industry doesn’t make sense, but another perspective or two from others in similar situations can add some unique, practical ideas to board conversations.
Think about this from the other perspective: A nonprofit leader can be enriched by this experience. An executive director mentioned to me the other day that she learned something new at virtually every board meeting she attends as a board member of another nonprofit.
In addition to Jan’s suggestions about finding the right board, I would add one suggestion for the Executive Director looking to gain insights from this experience: Choose an organization whose board has already evolved beyond your own to ensure that you can create your own vision of the evolution of your organization and your board based on this organization’s experiences.