Shelby Rogala, Professional and Organizational Development Manager
Nonprofit boards are required to have at least three members, according to Montana State Code. Given that Montana has over 10,000 nonprofits, board membership is in high demand. As demographics shift and generations move out of the work and board force, finding board members to help carry the mission forward is a priority.
To fill these roles, MNA believes nonprofits in the state need to look beyond the “same ten people” that can be found on each board in town and broaden their definition of who looks like a good board member. In order to grow in a changing world while ensuring longevity for years to come, nonprofits must begin cultivating tomorrow’s boardroom leaders today. If you are not already thinking about diversifying your board, we invite you to consider it.
Of course, this can be easier said than done. Below are a few tips to get you started or help continue the process.
Start with the why of expanding your board search. Engage your board with the why as soon as you consider reaching out to new pools of prospective board members. Truly understanding why a more diverse board can benefit your organization is important and helps avoid tokenization or box-checking. Every organization is different, and can benefit from new perspectives. Ensure you know exactly what those reasons are before you begin outreach.
Make a plan. There are many different ways to approach the logistics of introducing new members your board. Whether you have a committee that could use new perspectives, or a trial period for new board members, establish how and where you will recruit, orient, train, and sustain new board members. Though we often leap to recruiting as the first step in this cycle, creating a plan that will attract new members and giving them the tools they need to succeed is equally, if not more, important.
Recognize what might need to change. Board culture is the result of a group of individuals working together towards a common mission. As boards engage new individuals, keep in mind that new recruits will bring different experiences and expectations to the table. Tension is often inevitable and in a changing world, expectations may need to be adjusted by both parties to create a culture that will work for all. Instead of thinking of this as entitlement, view this cultural shift as an opportunity to match your board culture and organization’s sustainability to meet the demands of a new and exciting world.
While the tips above can get you started, preparing the organization is only the first part of the process. MNA has been working to connect not-yet board members to local nonprofits and prepare these individuals to enter board service through our free workshop, “So You Wanna Be a Board Member.”
We have already visited Bozeman, Kalispell, and Sidney and are scheduled to share this workshop with communities in Red Lodge, Hamilton, and Helena this spring. If you would like to bring this training to your organization or community or are actively searching for new board or committee members, email [email protected] to learn how we can help you connect with new leaders that might be right next door.