Cultivating prospective board members should never be a blind process. Boards should carefully consider whether an individual would be a good fit. Describe your needs to current board members, organization staff and friends and ask them for recommendations. Approach constituency groups for names of prospects on a regular basis. Remember – cultivation is a year-round process.
Consider non-board volunteers in your pool of prospects: they have already identified themselves as supportive of your programs and demonstrated that support by sharing their time and talents.
Once prospective board members have been identified, find ways to connect with them, gauge their interest in your organization, and update them on new developments. Ask them to volunteer for specific projects. Add them to your publication mailing list. Make sure they receive invitations to events. Begin increasing quality interaction and information sharing with your prospects.
Newer boards – Identify volunteer leaders in other areas of your organization who have demonstrated an interest in your work and in helping you achieve your mission. Keep them informed about the board’s work and show how that work fulfills your organizational mission. Build interaction opportunities between the board and other key volunteers into your annual planning calendar.
Veteran boards – If you already have an advisory group, use that body as a prime cultivation source: individuals have already shown a commitment to your organization, and board service is an appropriate “next step” in deepening that commitment. Continue to build in joint interaction opportunities for all of your volunteers, including the board.
Some questions to guide discussion:
• How do we identify and approach prospective board members?
• What groundwork do we lay (e.g., how do we inform them about our activities, how do we include them in our work) before prospective board members become recruits?
• How could we improve these processes?