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Board Guide

Locating Board Members

First, let’s talk a little bit about the importance board members play in the operation of a nonprofit organization and the strategies needed to find the best fits for your organization. (You may also want to check our link to “Board Development” for more information.)

Below are some key ideas to help REAP results when you are considering potential board members:

  • Review the organization’s mission and strategic plan and be able to describe it clearly and succinctly to prospective board members.
  • Effective boards are made up of a broad spectrum of knowledge, experience, and interests.
  • Assess current board strengths and gaps in expertise before shopping for new board members.
  • Prepare to be on the look-out for potential board members on a continuing basis.
  • Show diligence to orient the board member to his or her new duties.

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Review the Nonprofit’s Mission and Strategic Plan

Review your organization’s mission and strategic plan, and be prepared to give a five minute description of current goals and recent accomplishments. This makes it possible for you to “sow a seed” about your organization and maximize the limited time you and the prospective board member have together.

Become familiar with the prospective member’s background. If you first outline why the person’s specific qualities and knowledge would aid the organization, the door is opened for the person to be helpful. Even if they do not have time to become a board member at the present time, they can lead you in the right direction.

Effective boards are made up of a spectrum of talents

Boards are charged with the governance of the nonprofit organization, making sure that it abides by ethical and legal standards while making its vision a reality. Here are some common questions to ask in developing a well-rounded board:

Does the board reflect the community with respect to age, gender, and ethnicity?

Does the board reflect a knowledge of and experience in financial, business and legal professions?

Does the board contain members who have personal influence and financial resources to help attract support to the organization?

Does the board contain representation from those whom it serves?

If a visitor from another country attended our meeting, would he or she go away with an accurate idea about who we are and what we do?

Assess the strengths and gaps in the composition of the current board.

A good rule of thumb in conducting board member searches is to look for people different from those already involved. While a wide variety of board members may need take more time to process information, the broader viewpoints expressed can strengthen the board as long as differences are properly managed.

Like staff, most board members appreciate being given meaningful work and having their time respected.

Prepare to be on the lookout for new board members on a continuing basis.

It is vital to be seeking new prospective board members at all times, as you cannot expect to find the best individuals if you are rushing at the end of the year. In addition, the newspaper is an opportune resource to find those around the community who are are in the news and successful in their profession and may be interested.

Don’t limit your search by assuming that certain people would not be interested in your type of organization. Many people like to volunteer outside the scope of their profession and use their talents in a capacity that fulfills a personal or family interest. Remember that you are inviting a person to join the board, not just a skill base.

Online Opportunities to Search for Board Members

Some web sites offer online opportunities to find board members. Here’s one:

Show Diligence to Orient a New Board Member

Invitation to Serve on a Board

It helps to first talk to someone informally about serving on your nonprofit board. If the person shows interest, then a formal invitation is usually provided by a member of the board’s nomination committee or board president.


Once someone agrees to be on the board, he or she must be fully versed in what the organization does.

Below is a helpful list of things that should be included in a board welcome packet:

  • History of organization in concise, interesting way
  • Mission/purpose
  • Philosophy
  • Methodology (the way the organization does its work)
  • Programs
  • Services
  • Management Structure
  • Staff and Volunteer Roles
  • Board/Board
  • Board/Staff
  • Staff/Staff
  • Board/Community Leaders (City & County Government …etc.)
  • United Way
  • Other Funding Sources

Information (State of the Organization: present and changing)

Most nonprofits have the following committees:
Executive Committee Board Development/ Nominating Committee
Personnel Committee Finance Committee
Fund Raising (All board members are responsible for raising funds, not just a select few!)
Programs Committee Facilities Committee
Communication & Marketing Committee

Involvement (Individual and Collective Board ACTION is needed to meet the organization’s needs, objectives, and goals.)

The following are just a few of the activities your board should be involved in:

  • Policy/Governance
  • Support (giving and acquisition)
  • Stewardship (of organization’s assets)
  • Planning (in meaningful partnership with executive director)
  • Committee Service
  • Individual Efforts


Use the marketing perspective: What’s in it for the Board Member?

Interpret the Board Member’s needs and desires within the context of the organization’s mission, purpose and accomplishments– this is the main responsibility of the executive director.


Evaluate individual and collective Board productivity in relation to roles and responsibilities, keeping in mind the organization’s needs, objectives, and goals.

Board Member Evaluation Checklist

(Feel free to copy and paste to a word document for your nonprofit to use!)

  1. Attend no less than 75% of regular Board Meetings.
  2. Chair and/or serve on a standing committee or special project.
  3. Make a personal and if possible business contribution to the organization’s annual operating needs.
  4. Participate in or attend most of the program activities involving the operation.
  5. Arrange for and/or make an organization presentation to a civic club, church group, business associate, or group of friends.
  6. Make at least five person-to-person visits to individuals, foundations, businesses, or civic groups to request financial contribution for the organization.
  7. Invite and accompany a friend or associate to visit the facility.
  8. Recommend a potential candidate for Board membership to the Board Development Committee.
  9. Secure a volunteer, in-kind service or material goods for the organization.
  10. Review and consider your capacity and willingness to make a planned gift or bequest to the organization.
  11. Secure at least ten new donors for the organization.
  12. Actively assist with the special events of the organization.

OK, we covered a lot of material.

To Recap:

  • Review the organization’s mission and describe it clearly to prospective board members.
  • Effective boards need to reflect a broad range of knowledge, experience, and interests.
  • Assess current board strengths and needs before shopping for new board members.
  • Prepare to look for potential board members on a continuing basis.
  • Show diligence to orient the board member to his or her new duties.
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