How to Build a Board

Bob Cryer

Bob Cryer

Most small nonprofits would like to have a larger board, but they just don’t seem to have the elements in place needed to make it happen. Here is what is needed.

Once or twice a year, personally ask each board member, staff member and anyone else you know for the contact information for anyone that they know who is active in their community. People who are active in other community organizations are a good prospect for becoming involved in your nonprofit. Let the referrers know the minimum qualifications required to be on your board (rather than your wildest dreams). Let the referrer know that all they have to do is provide a name and contact information and you will do the rest.

Have a process for recruiting new board members. It might consist of:

  1. An information packet that you can send to a prospect to give them basic information about the nonprofit and its board.
  2. A follow-up phone call to see if they would like to meet to learn more about the nonprofit and what is expected of its board members.
  3. If the interest is there, an invite to a board meeting to meet all the members and observe their process.
  4. If there is mutual interest, give the prospect an application to become a board member.

Have a process for orienting and getting a new board member involved:

  1. Assign an experienced board member to mentor the new member’s orientation. 
  2. Have a manual for new members that contain the bylaws, the organization charts with contact information for the board and staff, all the documents that the board members have seen in the last year and all of the PR and fundraising literature that the nonprofit has distributed in the last year. The mentor should discuss this relevance of all this information to the board with the new member.
  3. Have the new member meet individually with the ED, the board chair and any committee chairs to understand the role and approach of each key player.
  4. Have the mentor help the new member find a satisfying board and committee role

A nonprofit should be able to build its board if has a reliable process for generating leads, for following up with prospects, and for helping new board members get oriented and involved.

 Author:  Bob Cryer, Executive Coaches of Orange County,