How To Choose Nonprofit Board of Directors

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

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One of the most important decisions you will make for your nonprofit organization is who will be leading it. Being a board director member comes with a lot of responsibility, given that it involves overseeing the overall activities of the nonprofit, strategic planning and the ultimate fulfillment of its mission. 

Depending on what stage your organization is at, you may be asking yourself questions like:

  • Who should I ask to serve?

  • Who should I replace an existing board member with?

  • How many board members should I have?

Hopefully this article will help you answer some of those questions. Here’s what it covers: 

  1. How many members in a board is recommendable? 

  2. Skillset and diversity of board members. 

  3. The 3 W’s 

How many board directors is recommendable for my nonprofit? 

It all depends on the size and developmental stage of your organization. The IRS requires a minimum of 3 board members; however, it doesn't dictate how long their term should be; it usually lasts from 1-5 years. 

If your organization is well-established, has a larger number of staff, different funding streams and a wider range of programs, it is advisable to have between 12-15 board members if not more, to properly oversee the different areas.

Skillset & Diversity

First and foremost make sure that everyone you choose, regardless of their skillset and background feels a strong connection to the fulfillment of your organization’s mission. Secondly, make sure your board members are familiar with business practices and organizational competency. 

Depending on the focus and mission of your nonprofit, choose people who have had different backgrounds, education and experiences that the organization can benefit from. Look for strategic, analytical thinkers, financially savvy individuals and those with a network of contacts

The 3 W’s 

A rule of thumb you could use to make important choices about your board members is to guide yourself by the 3 W’s: Work, Wisdom, Wealth.

Every board of director member should comply with at least 2 of the 3 W’s. 

  • Work: involvement that comes from hands-on experiences to fulfill the mission of the organization

  • Wisdom: that comes from education and experience, strategic thinking.

  • Wealth: funding that can contribute to further the reach of your organization.

It is important that your board members meet at least two of these criteria. Otherwise, they could fall into other categories like a staff member, who works for the organization, a consultant, who provides insight and experience, or a sponsor or benefactor, who provides the funding. 

Finally, remember that boards of this nature are never static and ever-changing. People can come and go, but make sure to always strive for a balance of skillset, experiences and personalities that will always keep your organizations’ best interest at heart. 

Helpful Resources:

How Many Board Members Should a Nonprofit Have

Nonprofit Board Members Choose Wisely

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