Build Your Rockstar Board

May 7, 2019

Your board can be one of your best assets. It can also be a secret weapon that enables your organization to face challenges, overcome obstacles and reach goal after goal.

But your board can also be a dud: a group of well-meaning individuals who care about your mission, but don’t understand what being a “good” board member means and just don’t have the time or energy to give to your nonprofit.

And, by “give” I mean write a check, lead a committee, champion a program, provide expertise, make introductions, or ask for support.

A Rockstar Board Gets It.

A rockstar board is my favorite description of a board where everyone has a defined role and all contribute in some meaningful way (and sometimes there’s a diva or two in the mix!).

Usually, members of a rockstar board are told before they joined what role they’re needed to play. That’s a best practice as you build or expand your board.

Another best practice is to think through what your organization needs. This means mapping it out via a matrix or list detailing which skill sets you have and what’s lacking, and then bringing some well-connected folks together to brainstorm who to engage.

After you’ve got a good list of names, meet with each person. You should also invite your board prospects to events or programs so they get a feel for your mission and organization.

Find What You're Looking For.

When talking to a prospective board member, make it clear that you’re looking for someone with their skill set to focus on a certain area. This could include sharing their legal or HR perspective or raising funds for a new initiative. It could also be helping to launch a new program, offering financial expertise, or ensuring the gala is a success. Be direct in your inquiry and find out if they’re interested in that role.

Can you imagine bringing various members of a band together and not making it clear one needs to play bass, another the drums, and another will be the singer? That’s essentially what happens when you ask someone to join your board and don’t talk specifically about what you need them to do!

Last, but certainly not least, ensure your board prospect is willing to support your organization financially. A commitment to governance and engagement and an investment in your mission – at an amount set by your organization or a level that is significant to them – will help demonstrate their buy-in.

The process of identifying potential board members takes time and requires a thoughtful approach.

Don’t rush it, or you’ll be stuck with a lame band that just can’t perform.