Recruit and Retain a Strong Nonprofit Board of Directors in 2014 – Step 1

Step 1 -Assess your nonprofit board of directors status and needs

I’m excited to get into more detail to help you recruit and retain the right board members for your nonprofit board of directors!  Last blog I gave an overview of certain steps your board can take to ensure that you are recruiting and then retaining candidates who are the best fit for your nonprofit board.  This week, we will speak in some more detail about Step 1 = Assess.  When conducting an initial assessment of your board, on a broad scale, it is important to determine the status of your organization as well as to decide the specific needs of your board.

It is important to determine the current STATUS of your organization.  If you need guidance in categorizing or determining the size of your nonprofit, Karen Zapp does a nice job of defining nonprofit organizational sizes at Classifications of Small, Medium & Large Nonprofit.

I recommend using the below 3 examples to begin to think about the status of your organization and board.

It is important to determine the current STATUS of your organization-

  1. Are you a startup Nonprofit (NP)?  This will require your board to function more as a “founding board” which requires different efforts from your board members than an existing, veteran board.  Your founding board will be expected to do more of the work to create the organizational structure of the NP in collaboration with the executive director (ED) or CEO.  A veteran board would not have as many of these expectations as the foundation or blueprint of the organization has been established.
  2. Are you a small NP?  Similar to a founding board, the board of a small organization may have to participate more often in taking steps toward actions such as creating policy and procedures or creating ‘working committees’ to complete work on necessary projects that the organization needs.  Such work will help the organization to reach their set goals.
  3. Are you a veteran NP? The board of a veteran NP should be more stable and have routine practices for their meeting schedules, fundraising events, work with partner organizations and their marketing in the community.  Such boards may not require as much from their board members in terms of ‘hands-on work’.  Some veteran boards will recruit board members who have particular status in the community or who will strictly provide funding to the organization.


Some boards use a theory similar to the below grid:

Board Member Characteristics

Financial Contribution – high

Financial Contribution – low

Physical Efforts  – high

Provides a lot of money as well as time to the board.

Provides a lot of time to the board, but does not provide much (or any) money.

Physical Efforts  – low

Provides a lot of money to the board, but does not provide much (or any) time.

Provides minimum (or no) money to the board as well as provides minimum time to the board. 



Another important step in assessment is to determine your organization’s and your board’s NEEDS as well as to determine the priorities.  It is helpful to keep in mind that the purpose of a nonprofit board is to govern rather than manage.  Doing some level of strategic planning will assist your organization in determining your current needs and priorities.

It is also important to consider the members currently on your board.  What are their skills and strengths?  What type of individuals would you like and need to have on your board to make up for skills and strengths that are currently absent?  Do you need people with educational experience, people with financial expertise, someone who is well respected in the community who can assist with fundraising, etc.?  Does your NP need to increase community partnerships and, if so, do you have someone on the board who has been successful in this?  As you continue to think about your organization’s needs, determine how your board members, as individuals as well as the whole group, will support the stated goals.  If you charge for services provided by your organization, is it time to re-assess your pay structure?  If so, would you like to have someone with a financial background?

What are the expected outcomes of the work that your NP does to service its population?  Look at those indicators and decide what actions should be taken to make the impact that you want to make.  What will you need to make it happen?  Do you want a grant writer to apply for grants?  Do you want to get more exposure in the community, state, country and will you need a marketing expert?  Such needs will determine who you bring on your board and the expectations that you have of them.

I hope this has helped you begin to think about where your organization and your board are at.  We will next review where you want to be and how to plan to get there.   I look forward to speaking with you in two weeks when we will review Step 2 – Plan.

If you would like to read the previous installment of Recruit and Retain the Right Board Members for your Board, please go to Introduction.


Photo credit to: Microsoft Office Clip Art

Jeanne Ward is a Consultant and Personal Strategist who brings her knowledge of psychology, strategy and personal fulfillment to her current work. Jeanne started her career by helping mentally ill inmates to ‘get their lives back on track’ as they integrated back into society from jail in NYC. She leveraged this experience with a Social Work degree to manage teams who were supporting people trying to move back into the workforce. She later lived in Atlanta, GA and Frankfurt, Germany where she began consulting with nonprofit organizations to guide them on their strategy, volunteer development, and organizational development as well as to support the development of their leaders and board of directors. After the jolt of a divorce, Jeanne found herself doing a lot of soul-searching. Digging deep, she arrived at a new-found appreciation for herself and the world around her. This journey taught her that when we start with improving ourselves, the benefits multiply. Jeanne realized that her strengths of strategic thinking, relationship building, and implementation planning could be combined into her ongoing passion of personal leadership. Hence, her personal strategy work was born. Jeanne helps men and women between the ages of 35 and 55 who are fed up with their corporate jobs to create fulfilling professional and personal lives through the development of a personal strategic plan. This work ensures that her clients identify their professional and personal goals as well as create a plan to make those goals a reality. Jeanne is also the Executive Director of the Atlanta Road Trotters Kid’s Running Club, a nonprofit organization that provides a platform for children to build a foundation of running health and fitness which leads to a better connection to the organized running community as well as a strong foundation of Discipline, Self-Esteem, Respect and Team Work. She has also co-authored a workbook on networking, founded and organized the National Association of Social Workers-Georgia-sponsored ‘Social Service Career Network’ and organized a summit for the National Alliance for Mentally Ill attended by over 100 organizations from 6 Atlanta counties. Previously, she sat on the board of NASW GA as their Secretary as well as on the board of NAMI GA/DeKalb as their Co-President, was a senior consultant for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and helped to run a capital campaign for an independent school. Jeanne has an MSW from Hunter School of Social Work (City University of New York), an MA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York) and a BA in Psychology from Emory University. Jeanne lives in Atlanta with her ten-year-old son.

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