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Board Members Value Written Expectations

“Thank you for letting me know what you expect,” our nominee said after reviewing the two-page document highlighting our history, mission and board member expectations. “So often,” he said, “I’m invited to be on boards, but no one tells me what they want.”

I was surprised. This gentleman was an accomplished businessman, a generous philanthropist, and a seasoned board member. In fact, I had wondered before the meeting if he would be offended by the check list our committee had put together. Instead, he found it helpful…and so will your future board members!

Customize this information for your organization…and be prepared to invite 3x more nominees than open positions. When you state what you expect, it takes longer to find the right fit, but both the board member and the organization are happier and more successful!

1. What is the purpose of your Non-Profit Organization? Be concise here, and explain your mission. If your nominee doesn’t share a passion for your mission, it’s good to know that up front so you can move on.

2. What are the Responsibilities of Board Members? This is the section where you can specify how board members can give of their time, talent and treasure. Itemize this so there’s no confusion and everyone hears the same message.

Example: Our Board of Directors is charged mainly with fundraising responsibilities, which enable the organization to meet our mission. With this goal in mind, we ask you to participate in the following ways:

Introduce us to prospective donors.
Give or get $________ annually.
Attend at least two special events.
Participate (by phone or in person) in _______ board meetings each year.
Consider including our organization in your estate plan.

3. What is the Length of a Term? This information comes from your by-laws and gives your nominee an opportunity to talk about his current board commitments or her ability to commit for two or three years.

4. What are the Meeting Dates? Highly sought board members are busy people! Providing a schedule of meetings helps ensure regular participation.

5. Next Steps? Is another vote required? Should your new member simply to attend the next meeting? If the nominee hesitates, this is an opportunity to offer a tour or a second meeting with key leaders.

Be Deliberate. Get Input from Current Board Members
This document should not be written quickly or alone. Get the buy-in of your executive and nominating committees. Also, balance your organization’s history, visibility, and needs with your prospective board members’ schedules, capacity, depth of interest, and non-profit experience.

Failure to Meet Expectations
I once read that “failure to meet expectations” is a key cause for divorce! In my fundraising experience, the same is true: A “lack of clear expectations” leads to a similar result – the separation of a good board member from a good organizations.


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