How to build a good board of directors for your nonprofit

A well rounded board of directors serves as the backbone of any nonprofit and can really help advance the mission of any organization. Since the board of directors makes important decisions for the nonprofit, it’s necessary to think strategically when building or making changes to your board of directors. Here are some guidelines to help you build a strong, effective board.

Set Clear Expectations

Before deciding who you want on your board of directors, you need to think about the purpose of your board and what each member will need to accomplish to effectively serve the organization. Plan to give your board of directors a dollar figure for what they will raise annually to finance your nonprofit. Consider utilizing a give, get or get off program, where board members give to the organization themselves either monetarily or through volunteerism, get friends to become actively involved or get off the board. Depending on the activity of your organization your board will need to meet four times a year to review the status of the organization. After reviewing your board’s goals, you’ll know how many members it will take to fulfill the goals. In general, larger boards are better for fundraising, while smaller boards possess the ability to meet more frequently and make decisions faster.

Diversify

Board members with various backgrounds are key to having a successful board. The board of directors must be diverse in age, race and gender to provide an assortment of ideas. Depending on where your nonprofit is active, you will also want to have geographic diversity to include people who live in other areas the nonprofit reaches. You will want to identify high powered people who are connected within the community at large. A board inclusive of a variety of occupations can also help serve the best interest of the nonprofit and help reach more important people through the six degrees of separation.

Do your homework

Being a member of a board is a very powerful position. Once someone joins the board, they essentially become a part “owner” of the organization and will make very important decisions. For this reason, it’s vital to recruit members carefully and research potential members before approaching them to ensure they are the right fit for your mission. Once you have a short list of potential members, interview candidates to get a better sense of their commitment to your organization. You will want to be assured that they possess both the right skills to voice their opinions and listen to others to make the best choices for the organization. After choosing the best members with the best chemistry and expertise, woo them and cultivate them to most effectively serve your nonprofit.

Remember that even though the role of the board of directors is important, the board will still need lots of support and subcommittees to accomplish goals.

Originally Posted: November 20,2008 on NJ.com