Your board matters to your non-profit – and to your fundraising program. While great board members have lots to offer your organization, fundraising help is at the top of that list. Yet, many non-profits have a hard time trying to find new board members for their organization.
Most non-profits that lack strong fundraising boards also struggle with their major donor fundraising. Having a strong, active, and engaged board will help you connect with new donors and offer a significant boost to your development program. Whether your current board is effectively helping your fundraising team or not, it is imperative that you constantly find new board members so that you have a steady board pipeline in place.
Why Is Your Board So Important to Your Fundraising Program?
When it comes to fundraising, your board has several key roles. First, your board members should be donors to your organization. Second, they should be fundraising visionaries, casting a big vision for your development program. Third, they should provide fundraising support by making thank you calls, writing notes to donors, etc. Fourth – and most importantly – your board members should be ambassadors for your non-profit, constantly helping you meet and engage with new prospects for your organization.
If you’d like to learn more about the four key roles your board members should play when it comes to fundraising, read How to Supercharge Your Nonprofit Board for Fundraising. If your current board isn’t properly engaged in fundraising and you want to learn how to get them active in fund development, read The 5 Step Strategy for Getting Your Board Members Engaged in Fundraising.
You Need a Strategy to Consistently Find New Board Members
The only way to have a strong board is to have a strong pipeline of prospective board members so that you can regularly bring “new blood” into your organization. These new members will not only bring new enthusiasm to your board but will also bring in new contacts and a new network for your fundraising programs.
Your fundraising team should constantly be on the lookout for new prospective board members. A great goal to start with is to try to always have 5 prospective board members in reserve… these are donors and supporters who would be great for the board and who have shown an interest in getting more involved. The only way to have prospective board members waiting in the wings is to take a proactive approach to identifying new board prospects.
Down to Brass Tacks: Where Do You Actually Find New Board Members?
Many non-profits that I work with say that they know that finding new board members is important, and they know they need a pipeline of prospective board members in place… but they just don’t know where to look to find new board members for their organization. Here are the 5 best places to find new board members for your non-profit:
#1: Ask Your Current Board Members
One of the best places to find new board members is by asking your current board for help. Who knows what it’s like to be on your board better than your current members? Ideally, your board members are passionate about your cause and well connected in the local community. Tell them you need help adding new members to your board and ask for their assistance.
Ask your board members to think of a couple of contacts who would be great for the board and to set up meetings where the board member can introduce their contact to your staff. Promise that you will take it slow, and will only ask the contact to serve on the board after several months of cultivation to see if they are a good fit.
#2: Search Your Donor File
Your current donor file is another great place to find new board members for your non-profit. Search through your current donor list to look for donors who (a) are passionate about your mission, (b) are well connected in the community, and (c) have the capacity to be a mid-level or major donor to your organization. Make sure that the donors you identify as potential board members would be a good personality-fit for your ideal board culture.
Once you have a list of donors who meet your criteria, schedule one-on-one meetings with them to discuss your board and gauge their interest in joining.
#3: Think About Your Most Loyal Volunteers
While non-profits naturally think about asking major donors to become board members, many never think about asking their most dedicated volunteers. BoardEffect recommends looking through your current volunteer list to see if any of your most significant volunteers would be a good fit for your board, and I agree.
That being said, remember that all board members should play a role in your fundraising efforts. When trying to find new board members in your volunteer file, be sure that they are comfortable with also taking on a fundraising role should they join your board (including making donations to your organization, if they are not already).
#4: Use Board-Matching Programs
Most major metropolitan areas, and a growing number of smaller towns and cities, have “board-matching” programs which help place mid-career professionals who want to join boards on the boards of local non-profits that are trying to find new board members. The National Council of Non-Profits suggests reaching out to your local United Way or community foundation for help locating board-matching programs in your region.
I have had some success in the past with board-matching programs, but when using them, it is important for both you and the prospective board member that you have a long enough get-to-know-you period so that you can make sure your organization is a good fit for the board prospect. Make it clear from that outset that if he or she believes that your non-profit would not be a great fit or that they would prefer to work with another organization in a different mission field, they should let you know and there will be no hard feelings.
#5: Dial and Ask, Dial and Ask…
I once worked for a non-profit whose chairman was a hard-charging businessman who was super-passionate about our work. When it was decided that we needed to significantly expand our board, he got on the phone, called every peer-level businessperson in town, and asked them to place a person on our board. He explained our mission, told them why it mattered, explained that we were trying to put together the best business-oriented board in town, and asked them to put (in his words) “your #2 guy or gal on the board.”
Amazingly, it worked. At least one-third of all of the business people he called agreed to find someone at a high level at their organization to serve on our board. Many did as our board chair asked and got their #2 (either the COO, Vice President, or other c-suite executive) to join the board. All because our board chair loved the organization and was willing to think outside the box, and spend a week picking up the phone and casting a vision for “the best board in town.”
It can be hard to find new board members for your non-profit… very hard. But don’t give up. Your organization’s mission matters, and because it does, your board matters. You need a strong board to help you raise the money you need to thrive. Use these 5 strategies to find new board members and move the ball forward for your non-profit!
Photo Credit: Easylocum 2.0