You'll Never Ignite a Board of Warm Bodies

Board: Effective Governance
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Jan 31, 2013 | Blog

Are you proud of your board? Do the people around the table inspire you?  When recruiting, do you ask yourself: will this person bring greater pride and inspiration to the board?

Too many of us begin board recruitment with lofty goals and end up accepting “warm bodies.” We know these people are not a perfect fit. They are only “qualified” because they have the time and some interest.

Let’s stop this practice and start working with only the best. Period.

Your board composition is greater than the sum of its parts. One person has the potential to change the entire culture. When high performing board members see others disengage, without being held accountable, they can begin to follow suit. They may even “vote with their feet” by leaving the board altogether. 

You can find the best people to govern your organization, and say no to those who are “warm bodies.” Here are four ideas to get you started:

  1. Be clear what you’re looking for. Take time upfront to define (and if necessary, research) the attributes of strong, effective board members.
  2. Get to know each other first. Engage potential board members as knowledge philanthropists within other areas of the organization before recruiting them to the board. 
  3. Develop a robust and consistent recruitment process. Be willing to start over if you don’t find the right candidate the first time.
  4. Consider implementing a probationary period for board members. This is an opportunity for both parties to explore and have an honest conversation about fit.

Your board has the vital role of leading of your organization and your mission in the community. It’s much harder to ignite a board of warm bodies than to keep looking for the right leaders that will make you proud and inspired. 

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Vantage Point

Our mission is to transform not-for-profit organizations by convening, connecting, and equipping leaders to lift organizational capacity. Every client leaves our programs with resources to excel in their role and grow the impact of their organization.

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