As non-profit leader I learned to use summer as an opportunity to connect with volunteers and start my board development strategies. Over the years, I developed a proficient and intentional method that improved my efforts, year after year, in building a stronger group of volunteers.
Board members are the cornerstone to successful fundraising, yet too often organizations don’t give the regular and deliberate attention needed to growing and maintaining a strong board. We see it first-hand in our work with clients that when volunteer leadership is strong, committed and nurtured, the organization only stands to get better.
So where to start? Recently, our Donor By Design team established a process to Leadership and Board Development to help our clients build better boards. It is concise, efficient, and intentional with the goal of improving an organization’s ability to recruit and retain “Big L Leaders.”
Assessment – “Family Portrait”
Assess your current board to help determine if you have the most influential and committed volunteers. Review the skills, diversity, connections and relationships of your current board within the community. Create your “family portrait” to help identify the gaps and needs of your board and determine who is missing. Consider the top priorities for your organization and determine who you need to help you realize your vision. As you develop a new portrait, with a clear vision of what your board should be, you can begin to create a prospect and cultivation plan.
Identification – “Who and Why”
Next, develop a volunteer prospect list based on who brings the critical skills and competencies to your board that will help you carry out your mission. Your prospects should have community connections, influence, passion and an overall knowledge of your organization’s mission. An important part of this phase is determining where you are likely to find your “Big L” leaders and who do you know that has access to them. Once you have your list of prospects, carefully assess and rank their capacity to meet the needs of your board.
It’s not just enough to identify the best; you must cultivate your prospective board members. They should be wooed and courted to be part of the team. Learn more about your prospects; spend time getting to know what they are passionate about, their past volunteer experience and their story. It is important for you make this experience special. Your goal is to determine if you have the “right” people on your team.
During the identification and recruitment stages, you meet amazing individuals; however, not everyone will be the right fit. Determine your vetting process from nominations to invitation and announcement. The board development or nominating committee should be responsible for the vetting process. Their role is to help select and recommend candidates to serve, based on the needs and criteria you established in the assessment and identification process.
- Engagement – “Make it Matter”
Once your leaders are recruited, they need to feel connected to the mission and vision. Your new volunteers should receive a comprehensive onboarding and orientation process. Create opportunities for rewarding relationships, meaningful work and authentic appreciation.
- And once you’ve done this, you’ll need to do it again – each year – to ensure you are nurturing what you’ve so intentionally built. Recruiting and retaining the best of the best requires focus and a sound plan. Leadership IS everything.