A New Perspective on Board Recruitment and Retention

Yesterday on The Michael Chatman Giving Show, the guest was fundraising coach and non-profit communications strategist Lori Jacobwith.  I have followed Lori for most of the last year that I have been on Twitter, as she is a really smart non-profit professional.

Lori made a few particular points about non-profit board recruitment and retention which have stuck in my mind since yesterday’s show:

1.  Before joining a board, the prospect should ask for a job description and discuss the expectations of board members with the organization’s leadership.

I agree with Lori that this proactive approach would help prevent the way that most boards are measured by the easiest metric — how much money each person contributes.  By focusing on what skills are needed on the board and what is expected of them, there should not be any rude awakenings six months in when each trustee is asked for a five-figure gift (for example).

2.  Only 6% of non-profit organizations provide any training to their board members (whether on governance, fundraising, or any other skills that they are expected to use in their board roles).

I have been thinking about this one myself, with special focus on ways to transition my organization’s board into more active fundraising with individuals and institutions.  Without providing training for our trustees, it simply is not fair to expect them to show up with these skills.

3.  Non-profit organizations need to stop treating board members like ATMs and get back to engaging them in the work as key partners.

By engaging our board members (and all donors) as key partners in pursuing the organization’s mission, they will be more likely to give generously by feeling like they are invested in the work (and not like we only want them for their financial support).

To hear the full conversation between Lori and Michael, listen to the podcast here.  There is an amazing anecdote that Lori shares near the end of the show about how a non-profit leader cultivated a relationship with a prominent business leader by engaging him first as a mentor, instead of immediately trying to get him to join her organization’s board.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but will encourage you to listen in and take notes!

What does your organization do in regard to recruiting and retaining board members?

If you are not aware of it, The Michael Chatman Giving Show is a great resource to learn about the intersection of business and philanthropy.  The show is hosted by Michael Chatman, a Harvard-trained entrepreneur, founder of the Association of Maverick Philanthropists and an expert in the field of celebrity-charity partnerships.  You can catch the show’s live webcast every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. EST at 880thebiz or on Michael’s website.  You can also follow the chat each week by following me and the members of the “Philanthropy Mafia” on Twitter:
@IanMAdair @NickSava @FundraiserBeth @DomDJones @officialjos @michaelchatman

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4 Replies to “A New Perspective on Board Recruitment and Retention”

  1. Dan, Thank you for the great recap of The Giving Show! I loved the conversation Michael and I embarked on and hope it helps organizations and board members with their expectations and results.

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