Friday, September 23, 2011

Board Recruitment –Don’t Expect the “Fully Loaded Baked Potato” at First

This is a companion piece to “Hosting a Board Recruitment Event” at the Nonprofit Capacity Blog at

At this time of year many nonprofits begin to think about recruiting new Board members. When I ask what they are looking for I am usually – usually, not just often, told they want people who have high incomes, who will make a significant personal donation and be involved in fundraising. This is an honest answer albeit often not a reasonable expectation – especially for most small organizations. Such people may emerge from your Board after becoming involved in your organization but it is unlikely you can recruit them as a “fully loaded baked potato.” To attempt to is putting the cart before the horse. Board Members need nurturing to understand your organization in depth and become committed to it. That happens over time as you engage them with your work and your impact. They can develop into a fully loaded potato but chances are they don’t arrive on your plate as one.  A good baked potato takes slow cooking.

So how should we go about Board Recruitment?
Governance Committee – Rather than a separate nominating committee, I recommend that the nominating process should be a function of the Governance Committee. The committee should complete a Board Profile Assessment which provides a profile of existing members including, age/gender/ ethnic profile, skills, professional experience and economic ability to contribute to your organization. The data available to complete this may not be perfect, but it is usually accurate enough to highlight the gaps you want to fill.

The committee should complete a Board Member job description and application. Write it down! Make it clear to potential Board members what your expectations are.

The Board Member description
Responsibilities should include:
  • Attend Board meetings
  • Participate on at least one committee
  • Make a personal financial commitment
  • Participate in fundraising

Include the characteristics you are looking for in Board members including:
  • Passion for the mission
  • Understanding your community needs
  • Team player
  • Good listener


The Board Member application should include:
  • Basic bio and contact information
  • List of skills you desire on the Board – legal, accounting, marketing, technology, property, etc with check off for applicants
  • List of committees with check off for preserences

Hosting a Board recruitment event is a good way to informally meet with potential Board members and give you each a chance to see each other. Key features of the event should be:
  • Informality
  • Social component
  • Presentation about your organization and what you are looking for in a Board member
  • Request to fill out the Board application
  • Absolutely no request for donations - No envelopes in packets 

You can read my article on Hosting a Board Recruitment Event at the companion piece at the Nonprofit Cacity Blog for more detail on a sample format.

The Executive Director or governance committee member can follow up with a one on one conversation and visit to a program. By then the courting should be done and you and the candidate should both know if you are a good match. You can’t start out with the “fully loaded baked potato” but following a formal recruitment and orientation process are important steps towards developing the engaged Board that you want.

What are your ideas for recruiting good Board members. Please comment and share your ideas.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

LinkedIn Gets “Nonprofit Friendly” - Highlight Your Volunteer Experience

I am often asked about how LinkedIn should be used by nonprofits. I have always thought that it is an asset that can be used effectively in a variety of ways. I’ll recap those in a minute. But first I want to tell you about what is NEW at LinkedIn that is of special interests to nonprofits.

A couple of months ago LinkedIn named Bryan Breckenridge to head up LinkedIn services for nonprofits and he has been busy introducing a bunch of new services – some of which are fee based. Now LinkedIn has made a huge leap in providing a basic, free feature of value to nonprofits. You can now update your profile to show causes you support and your volunteer experience. Wow! I just updated mine. It’s simple but not that obvious at first.

Here’s how you do it:

Go to edit profile.

There is a line that says New – Click on add sections.

There are actually lots of new sections you can add and one of them is causes and volunteer experience. I added this new section and filled in the brief summary for each of my current activities. While I was editing my profile I also added a section for publications and added You and Your Nonprofit.

I recommend that everyone update their profiles to include your causes and volunteer experience and that you encourage your Board Members and volunteers to update theirs too.

LinkedIn has had the ability to have organization pages for awhile but it is not an idea that has taken off with nonprofits. With this new feature now may be the time to set up your organization’s page and then if someone sees a profile where you are mentioned, they can check out the page.

I recommend that every executive director and development director have a LinkedIn page and use LinkedIn for everything but fundraising. LinkedIn has a no fundraising policy that you should respect.

So how should you use it?

Join groups – There are thousands of groups and you can find lots of nonprofit specific and cause specific groups. Some of my favorites are Boardsource, NTEN, Google for Nonprofits, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Leader to Leader Institute and Strategic Planning for Nonprofits. All of these groups are active. There are great questions and great answers. I learn a lot from the groups that I participate in and I have added people to my network based in the interaction. Groups on LinkedIn are an incredible but underused resource for nonprofit professionals. You can use groups for advocacy, to promote events and to find volunteers and Board Members.
Ask/Answer Questions – You can ask questions and see answered questions by category and the nonprofit categories get some interesting commentary.

Networking - You can build an impressive network on LinkedIn. You’ll be surprised at how many people you know are on LinkedIn. There are several ways to identify them and it is easy to grow a network. You can send a message to your whole network or to selected connections. You should use this wisely but it can be very useful to so easily reach out to your network.

Apps, Apps, Apps – LinkedIn has a useful set of apps that can spruce up your profile and personalize your home page. I use apps to enhance my profile by featuring my recent blog article titles and presentations I’ve loaded to slideshare. I also use the recommended reading list to feature recommended books. My home page has the blogroll which highlights titles of blog posts by everyone in my network. Interesting articles catch my eye with this feature all the time.

Recommendations – Recommendations for volunteers and board members will be appreciated by those you recommend. Your recommendation will show up on their profile and may influence potential clients and employers. This is an excellent way to thank people for the work they do for your organization.

There’s more, or course. As with any social media platform, click away and learn how to use it best.