Considerations When Building a Nonprofit’s Board

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The importance of choosing the right people to serve on your nonprofit’s board cannot be overstated. An organization’s board members are often its most visible and most engaged constituents. Their skill as managers, communicators, and fundraisers can be the difference between success and failure. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind during the process of assembling your initial board.

  • Understand the value of diversity.

Diversity is getting a lot of attention in both the nonprofit and for-profit worlds, and for good reason. Building a diverse leadership team is not just about establishing broad connections across communities. It is also about giving space for a wide range of ideas. Everyone draws upon their experiences, cultural background, and education to make judgments about situations. The more diverse a group is, the more protected it is against blind spots that come from commonly held biases.

  • Set clear expectations.

Fairness to potential board members requires that the organization have a good understanding of the obligations that a director will have. How often will the board meet? Will the director be expected to contribute specific skills, like accounting or legal expertise? Is a director expected to fundraise in specific ways? Having answers to questions like these will help the organization find candidates who will have the time and inclination to meet the organization’s actual needs.

  • Conduct due diligence on candidates.

Appointing a new director only to discover that he or she has a significant conflict of interest or an embarrassing personal circumstance, like a pending DUI trial, can set an organization back in terms of both time and reputation. Candidates should be thoroughly interviewed. An individual’s credentials, like academic degrees and professional licenses, should be verified. Some organizations may want to hire a third-party investigator to review public records to verify that the new director is not hiding something.

Assembling a board is a demanding process with numerous pitfalls. The Church Law Center of California supports religious and secular nonprofits with matters of organization and governance. Call us today to discuss your organization’s needs. We can be reached at (949) 689-0437 or through our contact page.

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