nonprofit sector

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“Are you interested in joining our nonprofit’s board?”

This question has been posed to me a lot recently. Maybe it’s my age or my reputation in the nonprofit sector.

Occasionally, I hear from those who are interested in joining a board themselves. Some want to make their resume look better. Some genuinely want to make a difference. Either way, I always inquire as to what they think constitutes an outstanding board member.

Here are my favorite characteristics of an outstanding board member:

  1. Pre-existing passion for the cause
  2. Eagerness to participate at every meeting
  3. Willing to prepare ahead for meetings
  4. Anxious to serve on committees
  5. Ability and propensity to give above average financially
  6. Strong desire for stewardship to others
  7. Supportive, but willing to express their own opinion
  8. Strives to learn as much as possible

How many of these does your board have individually? How many do you have as a board member?

Knowledge isn’t everything

Many people believe it is some vast knowledge about the mission or the law or finances or fundraising that signifies a strong potential board member. Don’t get me wrong, all of that knowledge can be a huge asset. However, they must be accompanied by the proper mindset.

All board members should bring a passion for the mission of the organization.

The reason for the above conclusion is first hand experience watching board members, who could have been phenomenal based upon their knowledge or background in the particular charity’s cause or the law or finance or fundraising who were terrible board members.

We have all seen it happen where a “can do” attitude and/or a strong work ethic trumps vast amounts of knowledge or experience. Think of times you have seen this at your place of employment or within a pure volunteer project or on some type of team event.

Mindset is everything

The “heart” of the team or the catalyst for success often can be traced back to the least likely person based upon knowledge. They make the difference based upon the proper mindset being ever present, and as such, leading to extra efforts and a contagious spirit for everyone.

Please think about these attributes as you search for future board members for your organization or use as a self-test prior to raising your hand as a possible board member. Just think how wildly successful every board would be if each and every member possessed all eight attributes!

Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments below!

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Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.