Inherently, we know that growth stems from engaging new people in our missions and our work. The sixth post of this blog highlighted the challenges nonprofit boards face when they do not use term limits to rejuvenate leadership and engage new leaders. Indeed, one of the main responsibilities of a board member is to recruit new volunteers by being an ambassador of the organization.
A healthy board is a diverse board, but diversity means more than gender, age, nationality, and race. Nonprofits need to create a board that can lead the organization through the next challenge. Often that challenge is expansion into new communities. One of the best methods of expanding into new communities is to recruit board member’s with knowledge of that community and ask them to introduce the organization to community leaders. These activities introduce the organization to influential people critical for building relationships and credibility in the community.
Communities do not just refer to geographic areas but to specialty areas and networks. Using this best practice, nonprofits expanding into new geographic areas, beginning to serve connected needs, or opening new programs seek out leaders in those fields or areas and recruit them to their governing or advisory boards. In the beginning stages of a new program in particular, staff often look to the board to provide critical knowledge and connections to build the new services.
Another best practice is to expand relationships with government leaders. Connecting to government leaders is critical for more than advocacy organizations. In this age of expanded competition for government funds, government leaders provide direction, knowledge of the government request for proposal (RFP) process, and perspective on the communities they serve.
Clearly, there is a finite amount of volunteers an organization can engage. Engaging volunteers requires resources as well as provides the organization with resources. Volunteers need to be supervised. Although engaging volunteers is the goal, strategically reaching out and targeting volunteers with specific skills or backgrounds the organization is lacking will propel the organization to the next level. How do leaders identify the skills or backgrounds needed?
Organizations use strategic planning activities to identify need and build pathways for growth. Strategic planning activities often include a “SWOT” analysis where leaders identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Using this knowledge, the nonprofit can reach out to the leaders it needs to overcome its weaknesses and threats.
Recruiting board members with specific skills is even more important for small organizations. Their limited resources often don’t include funds for experts in all of the fields the nonprofit needs to function effectively. For example, developing strong personal policies and procedures is critical for all organizations but hiring a human resource expert is often unaffordable for the small and midsize organization. Board members skilled in human resources and staff searches bridge the gap.
Broadly defining community and recruiting volunteers strategically encourages leaders to think about community creatively. How has the nonprofit you are a part of used volunteers to better serve the needs and began new services?
Because healthy boards are constantly engaging new leaders, nonprofits create pathways to identify and engage new leaders for the long term. In the next post, we will explore these pathways and how they lead to stronger organizations.