Leadership & Change Management

By: Tara Levy

Nonprofits often look to build (or re-build) a board after a major shift in strategy, leadership transition, or because the wrong team seems to be assembled for current organizational needs. However, earlier this year, Nonprofit Elements had the opportunity to work with a group of community members who were just getting off the ground and were committed to establishing the right board from the beginning.

Indivisible Austin, a chapter of the grassroots national movement, formed spontaneously in the wake of the 2016 presidential election. While some of the initial coordinators and leaders became board members as the organization incorporated, it was clear that they needed to be strategic about ongoing board development. Specifically, they were looking to create clear board roles and develop and implement a board recruitment strategy to attract additional board members.

Nonprofit Elements was tasked with examining board needs and expectations and crafting an application process to recruit for board and committee positions. With an online board application, Indivisible Austin promoted the opportunity heavily through their networks and social media to attract candidates from diverse backgrounds. Current board members were actively involved in reviewing applications and meeting candidates before participating in a facilitated session to create a slate of candidates that represented the broad range of skills they were seeking. Indivisible Austin tapped eight new board members to join the board, doubling the size of their board of directors. Board vice president Noah Masterson says that now their board is “reenergized and ready to tackle much bigger challenges.”

In creating the right board for a newly-formed organization, it’s important to:

  • Consider the type and range of candidates you need. This may include basic demographics (age groups, gender representation, etc.), but also criteria specific to the organization. For example, Indivisible Austin was looking to also have good representation from multiple congressional districts.
  • Set clear expectations. By creating a thorough application process, Indivisible Austin was able to not only vet candidates based on their needs, but also offer potential board members a chance to understand the needs of the organization and of the role.
  • Involve current leaders in the vetting process. While prospective board members may come to an organization from a variety of sources, all candidates should go through a thorough “screening” process. Meet-and-greets and having candidates participate in the organization’s programming (such as volunteering, attending an event, or meeting the people you serve) are good, casual ways for both sides to get introduced.

Nonprofit boards play a unique part in the success and stability of an organization. Taking time to make sure you have the right team assembled and committed to advance your mission is key, no matter where you are in your organization’s development.

Nonprofit Elements has vast experience in all aspects of board development and we can assist your organization whether you’re starting a brand new board or growing a current one, whether you’re conducting a large-scale board recruitment campaign or just looking to fill a few seats.

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