Tag Archives: Members

A Guide to Powering Up your Board Member Recruitment

Board Member Recruitment Let me start by saying that before you focus on board member recruitment, you need a standing committee on governance and leadership development. If you don’t, read this or this first.

OK, now we are on the same page and everyone understands the importance of a standing committee on governance and leadership development.  Among the ten basic responsibilities of board members is one that states thatthe board should “replace itself.” But, board member recruitment means that you have to continually generate and explore prospects for leadership roles in the organization as well as for potential board members. Here are 8 ideas for your committee to test out:

  1. Consider your constituents/members. One of the life lessons we are learning from the upcoming mid-term elections is that people seem to want to be represented by people who look and act like themselves. Board member recruitment should include representatives of your work. Members, current/former beneficiaries, or program participants can all be considered.
  2. Think about who has reached out to you. People who are looking to get more involved but first want to peek behind the scenes at a nonprofit will often reach out to you. They will invite the Executive Director or another staff member for coffee or to meet up. It might be after an event, “I will be at pancake breakfast with my kids, can we talk for a few minutes about this idea I had for a wine tasting event.” Whether or not you want to add a wine tasting is irrelevant – that person is thinking about how to help your nonprofit. And that is a good indicator that they may want a deeper involvement.
  3. Look at your committee members. This is a tried and true method of identifying potential board members who are committed to the organization and do what they say they will do.
  4. Read your donor lists. Now focus in on the cumulative giving lists. If your nonprofit means enough to them to give year after year, they have already demonstrated their passion for your mission and vision.
  5. Perform a formal search. This will take time and energy, but if you think you have people who would get more involved, if only they were asked to do more than serve pancakes, offer them the opportunity to raise their hands. Put out calls on social media (LinkedIn could be incredibly valuable here), in newsletters or hand written notes to target specific people. List opportunities to join different committees that could use an infusion of new volunteers (read: all committees). Finance, development, events, governance, programs, marketing, and/or membership are all options.
  6. Ask your current board members who are not on the governance and leadership development committee for suggestions. This may seem obvious, but over time a strong committee might not be soliciting nominations from other board members.
  7. Look outside the box. Contact local organizations that train board members (e.g., United Ways) or look online to nonprofit board recruitment sites.
  8. Talk to your current volunteers. Some volunteers want to help a day here or there with no long-term commitment. But, if you ask your volunteer coordinator who the most reliable volunteers are, there will be obvious answers.

Of course, once you identify candidates, the next step is to research them. But I will save that for another article on board member recruitment.

Do You Want Members or Donors?

members vs donors imageOne of the questions that often comes up is whether the organization should focus on gaining members or donors? And what is the difference?

Members vs. Donors
Members are looking for a relationship with the organization. This connection can include special benefits, discounts, accessibility, and/or additional knowledge – we’ve all heard the slogan, “membership has its privileges.” Many members want to pay their dues once a year and have never considered an additional donation. Of course, your job is to change that mindset. In addition, members want their thoughts about the organization heard. “After all, I am a member” is common statement in many organizations.

Donors, on the other hand, are looking to support a goal or help a specific project or organization. They provide financial or in-kind support and receive not only a tax deduction in return but the sure knowledge that they are making a difference and changing lives. They usually believe in the organization or have a strong tie to someone involved in the organization. Since there is no term that begins or ends their involvement, they are more likely to give multiple times during a year—if asked and appropriately motivated.

Which do you want?
Even if you have obvious membership benefits, you are still better off with donors in your database. What are your organization’s member benefits? If you have to rack your brain to come up with the benefits, they are not going to be enticing enough to draw a membership of any consequence.

If you can list 5 items off the top of your head that do not specifically tax the organization in either time or money but would be valuable to potential members you can start drafting up the membership offer form.

Still, you should engage people to become life-long donors, because not all donors want to be members even when the option exists. Many people want a relationship without expectations of attendance or participation.

Conversely, you cannot assume that a member who gives a donation wishes to get bumped up to a higher membership level. Remember, the tax benefits are substantially different. Memberships only get a tax deduction on the portion of the cost above the value of their benefits.

And, members cost much more to serve. Those benefits need to be offset by the membership fees. But, there are offsetting values for the organization. Members will more likely participate and provide a greater turnout at events and manifest often a stronger sense of loyalty to the organization than a donor. In fact, many people continue to renew their memberships long after they have moved away because they still want to feel connected to the organization (these people are perfect candidates to turn into long-term donors).

So where should you focus?
Of course, there is no right answer to this question. But to determine whether you should have a membership at all, perform a cost/benefit analysis of the value of each level of membership. Remember to include all the indirect costs since those may be the determining factor for you. As always, if you need help with this analysis, email us at davidatmerskyjaffe.com