Part Two of a two-part series on ‘How to Attract an Exceptional board of Directors.’
Where do you go to look for new board members? What is the best way to ask someone to sit on your board? How big should a board of directors be?
Mike Arms gives simple tips to start looking for a Board of Directors that will assist your organization in fulfilling its mission of saving lives. For example, just by changing the time of day your meeting takes place may attract more people in serving on your Board.
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The best way to recruit board members is to first assess your needs. If you need a financial mind, then go to a bank. Talk to your local bank, the one you have an affiliation with, because a lot of people that work at banks, presidents or vice presidents, they look to sit on boards to help the community.
Invite them out to lunch, tell them what you are looking for, tell them the requirements and don’t make it depressing, don’t make it overpowering. Tell them, “We need your help. We are not financial people and that is where you would come in to guide us.”
Tell them you are very respectful of their time, but you are also respectful of their intelligence and how much you need them.
If you need public relations and marketing look in the Yellow Pages and you look in the paper for big PR firms in your area; so many of these groups love to do pro bono work.
You have to be professional, you have to dress professional. When you set up a meeting, call them and say, “Can we have lunch together, my treat, I want to tell you about my organization and see if you can help us.” And that’s when you tell them all about the great work that you are doing, but that you need their excellent advice, and if they would be willing to come on your board.
If you do it the right way, if you do it the professional way, you have a better chance. Remember, never give up, if there is one thing I can tell you, never give up. If it’s a small firm and they don’t have the time, then try a larger firm. But if you do it right, present yourself right, present your organization right, you will get these people to sit on your board.
One thing that I look at, when I’m working with boards, is the size of the board. It depends on the size of your organization. If your organization is twenty employees, then you don’t need a board that has 30 members on it. I would say for an organization that size, seven board members is plenty.
I know how hard it is for executive directors to work with boards. If you have a board made up of twenty individuals, that is twenty different personalities that the director has to cultivate. And it’s not easy!
Make sure that the board is a manageable size, that the chairperson of the board is strong in leadership and can keep the board on the same page.
I find that most places that call me in, that are having trouble with the board of directors, is when the board of directors is not ‘gelling.’ When some want to go one way, some want to go another way, and the director is in the middle and they don’t know which way to go!
Make sure that the chairperson, or the president, of the board is somebody with good leadership qualities, somebody who can keep the board together, hold them together, and keep everybody going in the same direction.
And once that happens, trust me, there’s nothing that will stop your organization in achieving its goals.