As I wrote last month in Criteria for Board Member Candidate Consideration, “every board member should play an important role in introducing prospective board members to the nonprofit.” Once a prospective leader for your nonprofit has been identified, and, if after reviewing a completed Prospective Board Member Referral Form, (Click here to download the form), you have decided that they meet the criteria for engagement, the committee on governance and leadership development should develop a plan to cultivate and interest them in serving in the volunteer leadership of the agency.
A different kind of cultivation is necessary for board prospects who have already worked with your nonprofit and those who have not. Regardless, the key criterion that a prospective leader should meet is that you can conceive of them someday rising to serve as the chair of the board—the chief volunteer officer of your organization.
Further, there is a close relationship between the capacity and willingness of nonprofit board members to give generously as well as to help open doors for the cultivation and solicitation of other major gifts. When seeking prospective board members, you may appropriately and simultaneously be cultivating some candidates who are also prospective major donors.
The committee on governance and leadership development should consider the following approaches:
- Draft a plan for regular and ongoing communication to help potential board members and other community leaders learn more about the organization.
- Invite potential board candidates to events where you can get to know them better. At the same time, they can become better acquainted with the organization and decide about committing themselves to it. Annually, the committee on governance and leadership development might decide which events would serve best as “background” moves, designed for all prospective new leaders.
- Entertaining prospective board members may be important for your organization. You might invite prospects to various activities, such as:
- a performance, special event, benefit, open house, workshop, tour of your facility, or other event such as the grand opening of a new facility;
- an event at a board member’s home with current or potential board members, major donors, and community leaders; or
- part or all of a board meeting.
Remember, planning—as in all matters—is the key to the successful cultivation of prospective leaders who might become board members.