Photo of a nonprofit board of directors conducting a board meeting.

Four Traits of a Quality Board Member

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Establishing a board of directors is an important first step for any nonprofit. Selecting ideal individual members and then ensuring the group functions cohesively will take time, but it will be well worth the effort. Whether an organization is just starting the selection process or is reevaluating its current board makeup, we recommend looking for individuals with the following four characteristics. If these traits are present in each board member that is chosen, a nonprofit will be well on its path to success.

Enthusiasm to Learn

Good board members do not need to prove their expertise in every business capacity at the onset; good board members can be made. Individuals who show an openness and willingness to learn can be taught how to be good board members. As candidates are being reviewed, it’s important to assess how open they are to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Nonprofits should try to find board members who will be excited to learn about the organization’s:

  • Goals
  • Industry
  • Growth opportunities
  • Business model
  • Revenue streams
  • Cash requirements
  • Strengths and weaknesses
  • External threats
  • Competition
  • Stage in the business’s life-cycle

A board member who is continuously learning will be well-equipped to provide relevant and actionable advice.

Willingness to Dig Deep

Not all problems have simple solutions. In tandem with the enthusiasm to learn, ideal board members should be steadfastly determined to find a solution, even if that solution seems out of reach or unattainable at first glance. They should be willing to put in the extra effort if it is needed and dig deep into the issues—they may have to make some tough calls. But board members who fully accept their role as fiduciaries will work hard to find those solutions and protect the company’s mission when the situation demands it.

Dedication and Consistency

A good board member—the one who will be there to support the organization when it’s needed the most—is one who shows up. Dedication is key. No matter how prestigious or knowledgeable an individual is, they will not make a good board member if they are absent from meetings. Showing support at fundraising events and advocating for the organization in the community are both welcome traits, but the down-and-dirty work gets done at board meetings; it’s vital to find somebody who will attend them consistently.

Positive Mindset

Working on a nonprofit board is hard work. Board members sacrifice their time—one of life’s most precious resources—to be part of an organization. And that is why it is important for all recruits to come in with a positive mindset. The ideal is that they want to be part of the nonprofit’s mission, embrace its vision, and look forward to helping the organization achieve its goals. They will be asked to attend meetings, work on committees, and represent the organization at community functions, all without being compensated for their time. A proclivity toward positivity will be a welcome trait as when trying to navigate these time demands together.

Parting Thoughts

There are, of course, other traits that are desirable in a good board member. Having strong ties in the community, knowing how to solicit high-dollar donations, and past experience will all be useful to an organization. But the four traits that we have outlined above will, on their own, create a solid structure that can be built off of. Remember that a quality board of directors will be the catalyst for a nonprofit’s success, so find individuals who are up to the challenge. If you have any questions for our nonprofit experts, contact us today.

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