Savage/Meléndez & Associates, LLC

Singular Consultants

Selecting Board Members

It’s easy to believe that everything that can be said about good nonprofit governance has already been said. But we keep hearing about nonprofits getting into trouble for both doing things they shouldn’t and not doing things they should. In almost every case, the board of directors was not doing its job. One of the most important things that a nonprofit can do is select the members of its board. Unfortunately, that job is not always done as carefully, deliberatively and openly as it should be.

Identifying potential board members is often a casual process of a current member recommending a friend, or news coverage of someone causes the board to think he/she might be a good board member, particularly if the person has personal wealth.

There are tried and true practices for selecting board members. Here are some things to keep in mind.

A governance and/nomination committee should

  1. Make a list of the skills, talents, balance desired, time commitment required
  2. Prepare a chart with the information, including the skills and talents already on the board
  3. Update this list when changes are made
  4. Prepare a list of questions that will be asked of all potential members
  5. Name a governance/nominations committee (if the board is large enough, you may want two committees
  6. The committee member, the board chair, or the CEO should use the list to interview potential members
  7. Disclose all the expectations of board members, such as donating and levels, attendance requirement, committee participation, reading all materials prior to a meeting, whether expenses for participation will be reimbursed
  8. Term limitations (all boards should have term limits)
  9. During the interview, discuss the culture of the organization and board and their communication style

There is much more, but this is a good place to start. While it may be tempting to take shortcuts or make exceptions, these impulses should be resisted because they may well come back to haunt you.