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A blog for nonprofit leaders featuring fresh voices, perspectives, strategies, and news about the relational work of fundraising that inspires abundant, sustainable, and meaningful philanthropy.

  • Otto Reinisch

"Help! My Board Members Won't _____________."

Updated: Apr 2

Nearly 90% of nonprofit executive directors share some dissatisfaction with board members. They won’t help with fundraising, they meddle, meetings are unproductive and not well-attended, and managing them requires too much time and energy.

Please, if this doesn’t sound familiar, stop reading now.

For the rest of us, there’s an answer. Recruit the “right people”. There’s no other way, especially in these challenging times.

"Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus. They always think first about who and then about what. When facing uncertainty…your best strategy is to have a busload of people who can adapt to and perform brilliantly no matter what comes next". – Jim Collins, Good to Great

So, who are the ‘right people’ for your board? And, where do you find them?

Let’s start by looking at how most organizations – maybe even yours – find board members…and why this process may not be enough.


First, board members and staff work together to develop a list of candidates. A matrix can help identify ‘holes’ to fill. You may need to find a person of color or someone with a financial background. Maybe you need a member of the LGBTQ community, a major donor to cultivate, a woman, a clergy member?

So far…so good. You’re off to a good start.


Next, we begin recruiting top candidates and here’s where things can start to go wrong. It’s not enough to get the right people “on the bus”; they also have to be in the right seats. For example, a board member’s best work may happen in a role on the board not obvious to you.

Another mistake is when recruitment becomes a one-sided sales pitch. Desperate to land that perfect board member, don’t minimize expectations or over-promise what the experience offers. Disappointment, followed by disengagement, then disappearance, soon follow.


Finally, after a candidate says “yes”, we share by-laws, pass out copies of the mission, review board roles and responsibilities, describe our programs, introduce key staff members, and – last but not least – talk about fundraising expectations. We call this “orientation”.

While this process may appeal to your prospect’s rational side, it does little to inspire. It engages your future board member’s ‘head’ but ignores their ‘heart’, leaving behind a unique opportunity for developing the passionate, effective leader your organization needs.

Next Week…

I’ll share how you can turn your board recruitment process into a powerful tool for finding and inspiring the “right people” for your nonprofit board.

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