When a nonprofit organization starts the board is typically friends of the founder(s). As the organization grows, it’s important to bring in new skills and connections that can take the organization to the next level. All too often you find organizations chasing the same group of people to become a board member.
So where do you start? The first thing you want to do is complete a board skills
matrix. Who are the current board members, what skills and connections do they have, and what are their terms of office? I often find the same person has been board chair of the nonprofit for somewhere between 10 and 25 years. This is because in so many cases, there is no ongoing recruitment – typically done by a nominations committee – to bring in new skills and committed people to the organization.
Next step: brainstorm with staff and board members about the next level of connection to fill in the gaps. Who do any of you know in HR or accounting or
marketing or fund-raising? Who are the corporations that provide community
support where it may be helpful to have a board member from that entity? For
example Liberty Mutual, or State Street Bank, or Eastern Bank all provide grants.
Do you know anyone at these organizations? Liberty and State Street focus most
often on disadvantaged children and education. And talking of banks, do you
have anyone from your bank on the board? Most banks provide some form of
When you’ve developed a list of entities you would like to see on your board,
have everyone go through their LinkedIn or Facebook contacts. Who knows
someone at these organizations? Who is the best person to approach the
individuals on the list? Remember we live in a degrees of separation world. It’s
highly likely somebody you know is going to know someone at an organization
that you want represented on your board.
If you’re still struggling at this point – and you shouldn’t be – another interim
solution is to put together a short-term nominations task force. Bring in new
people to the organization and let them know this is a limited life project. Your
goal is to bring in three or four new board members with the right skills and connections. Have the task force meet once a month and assign very specific
duties and timelines. At the initial meeting you can go through your board skills
matrix and the companies and individuals you have already identified.
Another couple of quick tips. Make sure you are clear on the roles and
responsibilities of a board member. Particularly if there are expectations around give or get. And don’t forget to think about millennial’s. They bring a wealth of experience in the new world of social media, new contacts to cultivate. They may not be right for your board, but perhaps they might be right to join a committee and be ready to engage as a board member at a future date.
To read more and download your free board skills matrix visit,