In the world of nonprofit boards and board officers, membership is not forever. New people step up to the board, taking the batons from members who complete their terms. In this way, boards avert burnout. They enjoy new energy, diverse ideas, and updated leadership styles.
Granted, many organizations run into challenges filling board offices. Nonprofits without paid staff members can have extra challenges in this regard. It’s harder to recruit volunteers for board officer roles on a working board. So, what happens when no one steps up?
Time is of the essence when key board positions must be filled. Even so, it’s best to take time filling board officer roles. Your board needs a sound recruitment process to find dedicated, capable leaders.
To buy time, your board might need to double up on certain officer roles, or to have two people help each other by serving together as co-chairs. Look at your state nonprofit laws to see what officers are required. It may be that you can go without an official board secretary or vice president for a while.
Of course, there’s a big difference between stopgaps and long-term answers.
If you’re on a board, the last thing you want to see is no one ready to lead. How can this be avoided? Consider how collaborative boards can attract and retain good people. To keep a ready pool of prospective officers, model a cooperative decision-making style.
And, if it’s needed, create a set of position descriptions for board officers. Stored in a board portal, it can be easily retrieved when potential recruits consider the posts. They need to ponder whether the time commitment is reasonable, given their current lifestyle.
This includes scouting out people from your organization’s volunteer population. Look for dynamic and trustworthy team-players with group leadership experience.
Chat with potential leaders about someday stepping up. Let them know if there is administrative support for directors. Recruits will appreciate your own collaborative spirit, coupled with a board’s willingness to offer peer support.
Networking and finding prospective leaders involves showing up for festivals and conferences. It involves continual community outreach. It also involves seeking opportunities to mentor your organization’s volunteers, including existing board members at large. Of course, they will need to serve as board members before they run for board officer roles. This means it’s extra important to start planning early.
Proactively cultivate leaders, with an advisory Young Professionals Board. Your board might wish to invite a young leader to serve in a voting or non-voting governing board post, to become familiar with your responsibilities. As potential future directors, young professionals can be expected, ultimately, to fill board officer roles.
Meanwhile, youth board members should receive committee tasks, advocacy opportunities that inspire their peers, and recognition for what they contribute. Your young volunteers’ passion for the nonprofit mission, and their demonstrated keenness to work for it, are huge assets. They’ll inspire your governing board, too.
The long-term success of your nonprofit depends on board officers who can guide the mission and vision of your organization into the future. By planning ahead for the board roles themselves, you give this bright future a head start.
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