Help! I Need New Board Members!
By John Hughes, Co-Founder, Simon Cross Consulting
It usually happens on the drive home after a Board meeting. You are reviewing the events of the meeting, processing your frustrations when it hits you — I need new Board members!
But how do you know if it is the right time to make a change?
There are four critical issues that determine when it’s time for a new Board member:
Lack of movement – you ask for volunteers and nobody responds. If you ask them individually, they still aren’t interested in helping.
Not contributing financially – one of the essential requirements of your Board is to assist in supporting the organization financially.
Micro-management – when your Board is involved in daily operations- you have a problem.
Rubber stamping – they support whatever is brought before them without any serious considerations.
If you’re dealing with one or more of these four critical issues, it might be time for some new Board members. To successfully navigate through potential Board candidates, there are four critical steps to follow: look inside, look outside, vet the candidates, and bring them aboard.
1. Look inside – Before you move forward it is important to determine what kind of a Board of Directors do you want? Boards generally fall into the extremes: one type of board undermines the Executive Director while the other extreme is a Board that approves everything the ED requests. The ideal is to have synergy between the ED, who provides operational oversight, and the Board, which supports and provides the necessary guidance, wisdom and expertise. Having a clear vision of how the Board should function is critical to finding exceptional board members.
Does your Board include members with expertise in one or more of these areas: lawyer, CPA/Financial Advisor, Business and Marketing?
Do you have a clear job description written that clearly outlines your expectations for a Board member?
Do you have a Board member recruitment process that guides your decision-making?
Has your Board conducted an annual assessment?
Does your organization have a way to provide a full orientation to new members?
What action is the ED taking that contributes to your current situation?
It is imperative to take the time to reflect on these issues. It is easy to put the lack of productivity of the Board on the members, but when you think the other person is the problem, that is the problem.
It is easy to put the lack of productivity of the Board on its members, but when you think the other person is the problem, that is the problem.
2. Look outside – If you have an Advisory Board for your organization- this is the first stop in looking for Board Members. Who is excited about the work? Who is eager to help? Do they have the right skills, experience and education? Where do they fit on your organizational matrix? Have your existing Board help you develop a list of preferred candidates and their qualifications, or look to key stakeholders and donors who are supportive of your organization's mission. Whoever knows them best should check in with the candidates to see if they would even be interested? Then set up a meeting!
3. Vet the candidates – Why would they want to be on the Board? What motivates them? What are your expectations for them? Board expectations are usually split into three categories: time, talent, treasury.
Time: tell them specifically how much time it will take a month. Generally, 4-6 hours a month is a reasonable time commitment.
Talent: What specific talents do they bring to the table? What professional experience do they have? Have they served on other boards? What is their education background?
Treasury: It is critical that you tell them that you need their help to raise money. Follow the “give, get, get off” rule and share it with them. Determine what key contacts they might have who would be open to learning more about your organization.
*Simon Cross tip: There are three common ways for your Board to contribute financially: percentage of income, flat amount or an amount that is personally significant to them.
And lastly, during the vetting process ask yourself the following questions: How will their personality mix with the other Board members? Will you, as the Executive Director, be comfortable meeting with this person for their tenure? Once you’ve vetted a candidate and answered these questions, it just might be time to add them to your team.
4. Welcome your new member to your Board – Provide a comprehensive orientation to your new Board member(s). Do you have a process in place to bring new Board members up to speed? An orientation manual that provides legal documents, a financial overview, job descriptions, an organizational chart, mission statement and history of the organization as well as current activities is a critical component. Arranging for a tour of facilities and an update on the current challenges is essential as well.
*Simon Cross Tip: Assume that you will have to explain things three times, in different ways, to help new Board members learn about your organization. It takes time to get up to speed. It is important to get them involved on a task or project as soon as possible. New Board members come in with excitement and you want to build on their momentum for the benefit of the organization.
Remember, your Board has the potential to take your organization to the next level, but it can only accomplish that with your help! The process doesn’t stop once you’ve filled your Board with the right people. Meet with each Board member one-on-one every quarter. Learn about them, find their hidden talents, and listen to their ideas! Allocate 30% of your time to working directly with your Board. You’ll be amazed what you can accomplish together.
Simon Cross offers full Board development services. If your Board isn’t aligned with your vision, we’d love to partner with you to develop the right team to help you reach your next goals. Contact us today and schedule your free consultation.