- Have two representatives of the organization present so that they can take turns speaking about the organization. While one is speaking, the other can listen and observe the candidate’s reactions, fill in gaps in understanding, or change the pace or direction of the meeting for better rapport.
- Discuss the role of the board in general and in your organization. For example, a conversation about the distinction between governance and management may be appropriate. After the candidate accepts the invitation for board membership, these issues should be discussed in detail, but for now, you should clarify any confusion about the board’s responsibilities and roles in your organization, and you should cover the points contained in the board member’s agreement.
- Keep in mind an alternative role the prospective board member could play should it become evident that a board role is not appropriate at this time (e.g., given time requirements, contribution expectations, expertise needed, etc.). More appropriate roles might be advisory committee member, volunteer, donor, or future board member.
- Persuasion is twice as much listening as talking. Respond when appropriate, paraphrase for clarification, and draw connections between your prospect’s interests and your nonprofit’s mission. Be responsive to the candidate’s ideas and concerns.
- Know the reasons why board candidates want to join boards.These include, among others, that the candidate:
- relates to the mission of the organization;
- desires to make a contribution to the nonprofit sector and to society;
- is inspired by a dynamic leader;
- wants to meet and network with others involved in the organization;
- believes serving on the board is a way to advance professionally;
- wants to build new skills and learn about new areas;
- finds board service more fulfilling than his/her own career.
Note: The reasons board members stay on boards may differ from the original motivation. For instance, the prestige of serving on a particular board or admiration for a chief executive may pale with increased devotion to the mission of the nonprofit.
It also results from interest in candidates from “new” categories, for example, young adults in their thirties who view board service as a way to gain career-enhancing skills.
After a series of meetings with board candidates, the committee on governance and leadership development decides
- who will make a follow-up call to assess possible interest on the part of the candidate;
- who will complete the Prospective Board Member Recruitment Worksheet reporting on the meetings and consequent recommendations.
After all individual cultivation meetings have taken place, the committee on governance and leadership development narrows the number of prospective board members and submits the list of names with important characteristics and resumes for each candidate to the board for consideration. This is done annually or as special need arises.
NEXT MONTH: Orienting Board Members—New and Old