What to Look for in a Nonprofit Board Member


Having a strong board of directors to oversee a nonprofit is essential to ensuring that your organization’s vision and mission are carried out, and that your nonprofit meets—or even surpasses—its fundraising goals. Still, finding and recruiting the right mix of people can seem like a daunting task. Read on for a primer on applying your knowledge of your organization and its needs toward how to choose nonprofit board members.

According to the Council of Nonprofits, “A board should be more like a chess set than a checkers set. In a set of checkers, all pieces are equal and can do the same thing. In a chess set, though, each piece has a different function. . . . Together they form a formidable team, complementing each other’s strengths and backing up each other’s weaknesses.”

While it’s common to seek out board members with a background in financial services or law, or those who are wealthy, high-profile, or politically connected, choosing a board member solely based on these factors may not provide the ideal match for your nonprofit. Your best bet is to focus on potential board members who:

  • Are respected in their community or industry
  • Hold the same values as your organization
  • Demonstrate a passion for your cause
  • Are interested in being part of a team
  • Enjoy sharing ideas, and listening to the ideas of others
  • Are willing to put in some hard work, both in preparation for and in the execution of meetings, events, and campaigns
  • Have the ability to give regularly to your nonprofit, and serve as a model of giving for others
  • Have previously served on a board or committee
  • Have the time to devote to serving on your board

Start by making a list of people you know or who have been on your nonprofit radar for a while. Once you have this list, make a note of each person’s professional experience. Then see if you can create a mix by including individuals with expertise in:

  • Law
  • Finance or accounting
  • Business
  • Marketing
  • Human resources
  • Your organization’s area of service

Ideally, your board should also be comprised of different races, genders, sexual orientations, education levels, political views, and ages; this will strengthen your board by presenting a range of experience and opinions, which will drive your organization forward and help it thrive over the long term.

After you’ve assembled your board, be sure to check in with them regularly, provide frequent updates, thank them for their work, and involve them in problem solving and vision work. Helping them maintain their energy and enthusiasm https://www.gailperry.com/4-questions-to-rev-up-your-boards-energy-and-enthusiasm/ for the cause in general—and your nonprofit in particular—is the key to keeping nonprofit board members engaged.

And don’t forget the power of being involved in a unique fundraising project! Whether on the brainstorming end or the ask, nonprofit board members often feel most rewarded when they can be part of an interesting project or campaign that attains a specific goal. pungl can show you how.