There are several steps to building a nonprofit board: identifying criteria and expectations related to the strategic needs, finding prospects who match those needs, cultivating prospects and assessing them for fit with the board’s criteria and expectations and more. It’s a big job! I was speaking on this topic at a board retreat. One of the board members, who was “in charge” of their recruiting efforts and had been working hard at it, said “The people we want are just too busy. We have criteria; can we split up the criteria across several candidates? We just can’t seem to find people who match what we want.”  The underlying message was: there aren’t enough, we can’t find them, they don’t have time etc. Does this sound familiar?

I realized that the prescriptive advice often given in these situations may address this board’s “symptom” (i.e., having a hard time finding viable board member prospects) but not the underlying cause of their difficulty.  From my perspective, the problems they are experiencing are rooted in their board culture. They are struggling upstream against some beliefs that are in their way. So I asked them:  “What do you think? Does this board operate with a perspective of abundance or scarcity?”  After a few blank stares, I could tell that this got them thinking!  How are their beliefs and assumptions influencing the results they are getting?

We often unconsciously communicate our beliefs and assumptions. Do you feel you have a great nonprofit board that anyone would want to be a part of? How does your board member recruitment process reflect board member assumptions about attracting just the right people—those with passion for your mission—and the qualifications you need strategically?

We are entering the season when awareness of abundance or scarcity seemed heightened. What are your thoughts about how board members’ orientation toward abundance or scarcity influences how the board functions?  I’ll share some more thoughts next time on board culture. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. How would you rate your own beliefs along a scarcity (at 1) to abundance (a 10) continuum?