Right-Sizing Your Board

Boards.  For a small nonprofit, recruiting the right board members may be the hardest chore.  Harder even than fundraising.

So much time is spent on finding 15-20 good board members. Board members with affluence and influence.  Those who can open doors and those who can give gifts.

And the more I work with small nonprofits, the more I wonder if the focus is in the wrong place. Certainly, most of the small nonprofits I know, have a hard time finding these board members.  Too often, to fill the spaces, they end up with a people who don’t care much about what they do.  Others that care, but not enough to show up to meetings.  Not enough to make stretch gifts.  Not enough to ask their friends to support the organization.  And 3 or 5 who are the board members the organization deserves.

Maybe small nonprofits should have commensurately small boards. Boards of 3-5 people who care passionately about the mission of the organization and willing to be serious about their roles and responsibilities.

Okay, I get it.  With a smaller board, fundraising could go down.  Or you could create a fundraising committee (or a Leadership Council, or 100 other auxiliary groups) that is made up primarily of non-board members.

These folks you find from your donor list.  They don’t have to be big givers.  Just givers who are willing to go to others and say “Join with me.”

And each time someone makes a gift, engage with that someone and find out if being part of your fundraising committee, Leadership Council, whatever, is something they might be interested in.

Whether they are or not—and I’m guessing most will say no thank you—the purpose is to let you reach out and not ask for a gift.  Reach out in a way that is personal.

Best of all, as you engage with a small board and a small group of ambassadors who are opening doors and engaging prospects, you are connecting more deeply with them.  It’s easy to meet with 3 or 5 people one on one at least once a year.  And until the fundraising committee, Leadership Council, etc, grows to  beyond 10 new people (not counting the one or two who also serve on the board), you can meet with them one on one also.

The payoff will be terrific.

Small boards, fundraising committees/Leadership Councils are not for every nonprofit.  But if you are having trouble growing your board with the right people, it may be time for  you to think quality not quantity and shrink your board to the best members you have.


Janet Levine works with nonprofit organizations, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and build better boards.  Learn how she can help your organization go from mired to inspired at www.janetlevineconsulting.com.  While there, sign up for the newsletter and contact Janet for a free, 30-minute consultation.




About janetlevineconsulting

For over 20 years, Janet Levine has worked for and with nonprofit and educational organizations, helping to grow their advancement programs. Her consulting company, Janet Levine Consulting, serves a wide range of organizations from small, all-volunteer agencies to major national organizations. She regularly teaches courses in non-profit management, fundraising and grant development, both face-to-face and online at http://courses.lmlearningstation.com/. In addition to her nonprofit work, Janet brings years of experience as a business and sales manager in the for-profit sector. She has an MBA from the Graziadio School of Business at Pepperdine University.
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