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?
Great comments Mary! The woe is us syndrome is more prevalent than we might think. I also think that the ‘usual suspects’ – normally very visible community members end up on everyone’s list. If Boards could think a little broader, they may find real treasures in this abundant community.
You are so right, Amari! Do you have a story from your experience re: how this has worked for you or nonprofits you know?
Looks great Mary, a lot of work went into this.
I love you’ve created this forum for ideas and discussions.
I like you’re approach focusing first on the board culture.
Seems though, many then move back to recruting like one would for a job position.
That has merit, but not the only way.
My colleague wrote a blog post about a different approach taken by one of our fellow community foundations to think culture and focus on the person not so much the skills when recruiting.
See or cut and paste this link: http://goo.gl/Hi9RYs.
Thanks Luis! I do agree re: the “job description” approach to board recruitment. Board culture issues crop up everywhere and, since culture by its very nature is “unconscious,” nonprofit leaders often focus on surface symptoms. I will check out your colleague’s blog – thanks so much for sharing!