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Staffing the Nonprofit Board

By Martha Lasley  August 1, 2012

Martha Lasley

Ideally board members come with a wide range of skills, the ability to provide oversight, and the motivation to raise funds. But how do we get high caliber people on the board? We tend to beg them to join by downplaying the amount of work it takes, so guess what we get – figureheads who contribute little.

A bolder way to get skilled leadership on the board is to negotiate up front what we want, co-designing the expectations. Ideally we only want people on the board who could potentially serve as board president. It’s a two-way street, so they also want to know what’s in it for them – how being on the board meets their need to contribute. It’s difficult to get rid of ineffective board members, so we need to make it at least as difficult to get them on the board as to get them off.

As stewards of the organization, an effective board recruits willing experts as though it’s a courtship. With a rigorous, compassionate process up front, we can enroll real talent which attracts other movers and shakers. So we choose board members the same way we choose employees – we interview them. We ask, “What passion do you have for the cause? What expertise do you bring? What do you want to learn here? How do you want to develop?” If we only select passionate people who want to be part of an evolving, learning organization, then they attract like-spirited people, impacting everyone we touch.


About the author:

Martha Lasley resizedMartha Lasley is a founder of Coaching for Transformation, an accredited coach training program and ChangeMakers, a year-long facilitation training program. She creates results-oriented programs that inspire, motivate, and transform. “I surround myself with people who take risks and look for new ways of doing things; we explore both the solid ground and the edges of transformation.”

Martha is a certified trainer in Nonviolent Communication and is a professional member of the Indian Society for Applied Behavioral Science. She has written three books: Courageous Visions; Facilitating with Heart; and Coaching for Transformation.


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