Lessons available to keep strong board


April 11, 1994|By LESTER A. PICKER

Spring is in the air and the attention of nonprofit board members traditionally turns to . . . baseball (hey, they're no different than the rest of us). And, to a lesser extent, to reinvigorating the board with new members.

Fund-raising and board member recruitment are typically highest on the ask-your-consultant list, which in a sense is odd since there has been nothing new written about this issue for decades. To be fair, board member recruitment is a person-to-person activity, and no book, workbook or video will ever replace personal advice.

The first thing to recognize with board recruitment is that it is a board responsibility. Period. Consultants advise, but it is the real people on the board that must act.

Recruiting new members is the lifeblood of a charitable organization. Good leaders develop a concerted approach to grooming emerging leaders so that succession is assured.

I recently had the privilege of attending a meeting where a colleague proudly stated that the sadness he felt in leaving a board where he has served as chair for several years was tempered by the joy he felt in having not one, but four candidates ready to take over. That is the result of painstaking development of a strong board.

Recognizing the importance of board education and development, Special Olympics International was awarded a grant by the Kellogg Foundation to develop a series of modules to train its many local boards.

Christina Castellano, volunteer services coordinator for Special Olympics, sent me a copy of two of the modules to review. Let me tell you: They are excellent.

One module is titled "Recruiting, Orienting, and Training New Board Members." What I liked most about this module is its combination of solid advice based on the experiences of successful nonprofits and its use of a workbook format.

The workbook enables a local board to create an analysis and program that is right for its needs. A more established board could simply review more elementary sections or use them as a checklist to evaluate its current practices. A newly formed board would have everything at its disposal to create a hard-working recruitment and orientation structure that would serve as a base for future growth.

"We feel that this program will not only benefit our U.S. chapter boards," said Castellano, "but will ultimately benefit the athletes." The natural outgrowth of a strong board is inevitably a stronger organization which, in turn, provides more effective services to its clients.

Each module comes with a trainer's manual and a participant guide. In the case of Special Olympics, training is coordinated by a professional. Approximately 20 trainers are available to implement a board development program for local chapters.

Each module contains clear goals and objectives and pre-assessment materials. These materials can help the board better gauge where they are and define where it is they wish to be.

Five major concepts related to board recruitment serve as a thread that ties the training module together. Each concept is then followed by workbook activities that help the board assume responsibility in that area. For example, the second major concept relates to the role of the nominating committee.

The workbook then walks members through defining the qualifications and role of the committee and its job description.

The module also spells out in clear and concise language, the steps needed in recruiting board members, followed by activities which make the process easier. The module also poses questions that board members should address in developing a quality nominating and orientation process.

Twelve modules comprise the series, which includes policy development, strategic planning, fiscal responsibilities, fund-raising, risk management, staff supervision and other issues critical to creating and maintaining a strong board.

For more information, contact Christina Castellano at (202) 628-3630.

(Les Picker is a philanthropy consultant. Write to him at The Brokerage, 34 Market Place, Suite 331, Baltimore 21202, [410] 783-5100)

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