Recruiting nonprofit board members: What gets them to “YES”?

Tue, Oct 27, 2009 at 12:00PM

Hardy Smith, Nonprofit Consultant & Speaker

When you are asked to serve on a nonprofit board, what motivates you to say yes?

This was one of the questions posed to participants in my survey Why Don’t Board Members Do What They’re Supposed to Do?Survey participants included community and business leaders who serve as board members of associations, nonprofits, and community organizations. The results of this project have been featured in GuideStar, BoardSource, Nonprofit Business Advisor, Canadian Fundraising & Philanthropy, The Practicing CPA, and BNET Business.

Survey responses identified several major considerations that influence prospective board members to accept a board invitation.

The predominant factor was that board prospects must feel a meaningful personal connection to the cause or organization before committing their involvement. Furthermore, survey participants wanted to to feel a meaningful professional connection. Both aspects of relatedness indicate that prospects want to see themselves as a good fit with the organization.

Just having a good cause, however, is not a persuasive enough selling point to garner a yes response according to survey results. Therefore, your organization should know that a potential board member’s interests and background are a good match before extending the invitation.

Of course, time availability is always an issue. My experience tells me that the real question regarding time is whether or not someone is willing to commit his or her own time to your particular organization.

Respondents wanted to know that they would have an ability to make an impact on the organization and not simply be a name on a letterhead.

In addition to considering these factors, take care to pick the right person to do the asking. A positive response is much more likely when the ask comes from someone the prospect has a personal connection with.

Other concerns that influence decisions to join a nonprofit board include personal opinion of current board members, the board’s reputation, perception of how well organized the organization is, financial soundness of the organization, and opinion of the organization’s staff.

When recruiting prospective board members, an organization has many issues to consider before extending an invitation. Give careful thought to the above responses cited by board members who have already said yes. They will help you identify prospects who are a good fit and will be more likely to respond with an enthusiastic Yes!


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