If you’re starting a nonprofit (or growing one!), you’ve got to have committed, skilled, passionate board members. Board members are the amazing volunteer leaders of your organization. But when you’re starting out or trying to get to the next level in making an impact in your nonprofit, how do you know what kind of board members you need and where to find them? Let’s get into that.
Starting a Nonprofit: Understanding 2 Types of Boards
Not all nonprofit Boards operate the same way. How they operate can be heavily influenced by the size of the nonprofit organization’s budget and team of paid staff members. Generally, there are 2 types of Boards: A Working Board and a Governing Board.
1: Working Board of Directors
A working board of directors is actively involved in the day-to-day operations and activities of the nonprofit. Members of a working board often volunteer their time to carry out tasks related to the organization’s programs, services, and administration. They might be directly engaged in delivering services, fundraising, marketing, or other operational activities. A Working Board is what you are likely to have when starting a nonprofit, because you don’t yet have paid staff to take on some of these day-to-day roles.
2: Governing Board of Directors
A governing board of directors, on the other hand, focuses on the strategic direction and oversight of the organization. Members of a governing board are responsible for setting policies, making high-level decisions, and ensuring the nonprofit is operating in accordance with its mission and legal requirements. They provide guidance and hold the executive leadership accountable. They typically stay out of the day-to-day activities (though all Board members should support fundraising!), leaving those to be managed by the organization’s staff.
Many of the roles I’ll share below are most applicable to a “working board” format, because, theoretically, as your nonprofit grows you’ll bring on full-time staff who can direct the vision and plan for things like marketing, fundraising, etc. (with the Board’s support, of course!) – and when you have staff managing the day to day, your Board can evolve to a “governing board” format and focus more on the high-level stuff.
Nonprofit Board of Directors Roles
So, here are those eight must-have board member roles you want to consider when starting a nonprofit or growing its impact:
Board of Directors Roles: Officers
1. Board Chair: The Board Chair is responsible for developing meeting agendas, leading board discussions, and ensuring the organization stays on track with its mission and goals.
2. Vice Chair: The vice chairman supports the chairman and often steps into the chairman’s role when necessary. They assist in leadership and decision-making.
3. Secretary: The secretary is responsible for keeping accurate records of board meetings, including minutes, votes, and important decisions.
4. Treasurer: The treasurer oversees the organization’s finances and provides regular reports to the board. They ensure financial stability and compliance.
Board of Directors Roles: Special Experts
5. The Program Expert: Having a board member with expertise in the specific issue or cause your organization addresses is crucial. This person can guide program strategies and execution.
6. The Socially Connected: This board member is a networker extraordinaire, with strong business connections and the ability to open doors for fundraising, partnerships, and awareness.
7. The Fundraising Expert: Someone with experience in fundraising can provide training and guidance to board members and staff, ensuring effective fundraising efforts.
8. The Marketing Expert: A board member skilled in marketing and public relations can help craft your organization’s messaging, gain media coverage, and boost your public profile.
As your nonprofit grows and starts to hire paid staff, the day-to-day activities of Board roles 5, 6, 7, and 8 are likely to be taken up by those staff members instead, leaving your Board to evolve to a Governing board focused more on the big picture. Even then, all Board members ideally will have a clear understanding and knowledge around the nonprofit organization’s mission, and all of them, regardless of role, should support the fundraising goals of the nonprofit.
Ultimately though, remember that the number of board members can vary depending on your organization’s size, specific mission, and bylaws. The key is to have the right mix of skills and connections to advance your mission effectively.
Where Can You Find Board Members?
I hear regularly from readers and viewers on YouTube about their struggles finding and recruiting new Board members. But I can tell you from personal experience – once you master some key elements of messaging your nonprofit and Board needs, you can most definitely attract amazing candidates. As I write this, my own organization is executing a Board recruitment cycle, and we already have 17 super-talented candidates for our handful or Board openings. The volunteer talent and passion is out there if you just know where to look!
So… where do you look?
Volunteer Centers and Executive Service Corps: Many organizations specialize in connecting volunteers, including potential board members, with nonprofits. Reach out to your local volunteer center or executive service corps to tap into their networks. The Points of Light Global Network is a group of volunteer centers around the world. Check them out here.
Board Matching or Resource Websites: Websites like BoardSource offer resources and tools for finding board members. Some even provide matchmaking services to connect nonprofits with potential board candidates.
LinkedIn: Use LinkedIn to search for professionals in your area who have indicated their interest in nonprofit board opportunities. This platform allows you to review their skills and experiences. Here’s a cheat sheet made by LinkedIn on how to find Board Members or other volunteers for your nonprofit on their platform!
Chamber of Commerce and Business Networking Groups: Attend local business networking events and Chamber of Commerce meetings. These gatherings are excellent opportunities to network and connect with business professionals interested in board service. (If you’re in the U.S.A., check out this directory to find a Chamber of Commerce in your city.)
Current Volunteers: Don’t forget to explore your current pool of volunteers. They already care about your cause, making them potential candidates for board roles.
Fellow Nonprofits: Reach out to other nonprofits in your area. They may have board members whose terms are ending and who could be great fits for your organization.
Nonprofit Networking Groups: Join nonprofit networking groups or associations in your community. A great one is the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Another is your local Nonprofit Center. These groups often facilitate connections between nonprofits and potential board members.
Go Build Your Dream Board of Directors!
Building an effective board of directors is a critical step in the success of your nonprofit organization. By identifying the roles you need and knowing where to find potential board members, you can create a strong and diverse team that will help your organization thrive.
Remember, great board members are out there, eager to make a difference – So go get out there, network, and start assembling your dream team of board directors! With the right people by your side, especially at the start, your nonprofit can achieve its mission and create a lasting impact in your community.
I hope you found this article helpful and that you’ll share it with others who are passionate about making a positive impact. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter below for more valuable insights and tips on nonprofit leadership and social impact!
Until next time, keep making a difference!
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