When we think about recruiting great board members, most people think about big names and big wallets. But there’s a lot more that goes into a great board member, such as a connection to your cause, the ability to give, prior board experience, a strong network of key contacts and an area of specialization, knowledge or influence that could help the organization.
While you definitely want board members who are community and business leaders with significant giving capacity, the most important thing by far for your success is that board members have a clear understanding of their responsibilities as board members.
5 Traits of Great Nonprofit Boards
- They hold themselves and the organization accountable. Board members should be constructive partners in achieving the organization’s mission.
- They are genuinely passionate about the mission. There is no substitute for passion. Passion trumps everything. Studies show that not only does passion rub off on others and increase their happiness levels, it is also one of the primary traits making leaders successful.
- They open doors to new donors and make a personal gift. If your board members haven’t given of themselves why should anyone else give?
- They are focused on fulfilling the mission and see the big picture. It’s easy for organizational attention to drift away from the mission but a strong board maintains a laser focus on fulfilling the mission.
- They ask tough questions. Great board members provide perspective, ask for updates from the field and offer objective analysis to support and expand your staff’s reach and impact. They don’t shy away from thoughtful questions such as: “Are we spending and raising money according to plan?” They’re also open to self-reflective questions about the value the board is contributing to the organization.
These traits make a board member invaluable to the organization. But such members are made, not born—you can develop great board members through training and coaching. Use these traits to help your board members grow into a powerhouse team that will make a significant difference for your organization’s mission.