Wanted: Nonprofit Board Candidates With Passion

Wanted: Nonprofit Board Candidates With Passion

By Eugene Fram

Dr. Richard LeBlanc of York University raised the following question to ask those seeking nonprofit board positions: “Do you have an inner passion for what the organization does and stands for (its mission, vision and values), and whom it serves?”
His very pertinent question led me to think of how nonprofits may more easily identify this style of inner passion. Following are my suggestions:

Has volunteered for the organization – This indicates the volunteer has some knowledge of the nonprofit’s challenges and impacts. If the person assumes a board position, the nominating committee has to be comfortable that the candidate can move from a micro-perspective to being able to view the nonprofit’s broader picture.
Person feels that s/he can assist the board some way to offer a needed service. – Hopefully this person will have an entrepreneurial drive to more formally assess the need and be its “champion” to see its implementation.
Has served on similar boards – For example, a person who has served on a hospital board might want to serve on a board of an organization serving a less broadly based population, such as a children’s home.
A major or minor donor who has been assisted by the nonprofit. – Where possible, every nonprofit should have cameo representation of former clients or their surrogates. However, most likely because of past associations, the candidate may have an operational view of the organization, not a policy or strategic one required for a director’s job. It’s important to address this issue in reviewing the candidate.
Family Connections – In some communities, persons from the same families have served on the same nonprofit boards for generations. When the overall strengths of persons in the family group are equal to other candidates being considered, one can estimate the family member has an edge in understanding the passion of the organization.
Not Connected – For those who do not fit into any of the above groups, it may be difficult to assess candidates’ passions. Volunteer directors accept director positions for a variety of motivations, e.g. networking, board prestige, a stepping-stone to more well known boards, etc. For example, I know of one situation where a directorship on local AAA board (American Automobile Association) was considered a desirable board for networking and prestige. I understand that few, if any, board members had an understanding of the organization’s passions.

Clearly, people best serve a board when they have passion for what the organization represents. A perceptive nominating committee can make this happen!

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