How to Start a Non-Profit Organization: Step 2 – Founding Board Membership

Now that your brain trust has evaluated the idea and has endorsed the concept, it is time to go onto step 2 of the process. You will need to create a founding board to start the non-profit organization. The members of the brain trust provided you with names of potential board members. 

To start and run a non-profit organization you will need to create a source system and profiles of the board members.

Hopefully you have a list of around 12 to 15 folks to begin the process. If you don’t have that many folks to start out with, then keep searching for more potential board members. You need a least a dozen members to have any real chance of success. Look at the following sources to find potential board members:

  • Local Churches – If the congregation size or membership is slim at your church, look at others in the area. Talk to the priest/minister/reverend about your idea. He is well aware of his flock and will provide you with plenty of names.
  • Competition – Are there other similar organizations doing something along the lines of what you desire? If so, communicate with the Executive Director for that charity and see if (s)he can help you with potential board members. They have a personal understanding of their board members and these folks talk about their passions. You never know, you might find a great board member from another organization. It has double value, they also bring experience.
  • Social Clubs – many of the social clubs or support organizations are dedicated to a certain group in society. Kiwanis supports children’s organizations, Rotary supports many different organizations. Make contact with some members and they’ll give you an opportunity to present to their club. In your presentation ask for board members and keep it simple. Many folks have time issues and you are looking for guidance and not some overwhelming participation requirement from them.
  • Government Boards – Look into the local government’s many different community boards. Go to those boards and meet the citizen members. These folks have passion for participation, excellent sources of highly active folks. It is surprising how the board they sit on as a citizen will often align itself with your idea.
  • Community Organizations – Look at the opportunities to find resources here:
    • Moose Lodges
    • Veteran Posts
    • Women’s Exchange Clubs (Social Club)
    • Knights of Columbus
    • Masons
    • Band/Athletic Boosters

Sit down and create a chart of the organizations in your area. Try to identify all of them. This will be one of your most valuable documents, as you’ll soon discover board recruitment is essential. Board members are the heart of what you’ll do. They’ll provide the volunteers, financial resources, and the community contacts to make your idea go. I have sat on several different boards and I soon realized the value that they bring to the mission. Without them, you’ll have little chance of success. Create a chart with master groups similar to what I have above. Then start to break the groupings down into the sources of potential board members.

I can’t stress enough the importance of having a dozen members to start out with when you first meet. There will be a lot of tasks and input needed to make this idea go. In addition, they provide the energy and financial resources you’ll need to make this work. A typical participation rate is about 2/3. This means out of the 12 initial members, about 9 will actually participate and provide feedback to you on a regular schedule. Three members will bow out almost immediately or within a couple of meetings. Furthermore, you need the information above to keep searching for more board members. As some depart or lose interest, you’ll need others to replace them. Recruiting is a regular and persistence function of your duty, it pays off. You’ll discover that board recruitment will consume about 20% of your time in the first year alone.

Create a board member profile. You’ll need a mix of different types of personalities and backgrounds to have a successful board. The following are the different types of members you’ll need:

  • The volunteer type – this board member wants to get involved in the organization, she’ll be the one to bring the food to the meetings, celebrate occasions etc. The ideal candidate is someone recently retired or a stay at home mom. The key is that they have flexibility with their schedule to help you out.
  • Business contact member(s) – these individuals have financial contacts in the community, you’ll need a least a half dozen members with deep resources. The best fitting jobs are brokers, bankers, and contractors.  They will have access to the pockets of others.
  • Financial member – ultimately the one with the duty of treasurer. The absolute best candidate is an accountant.
  • Legal – find an attorney or someone who works in a law office as a board member. You’ll need access to low cost or highly discounted legal advice as the organization is formed and gets involved in the initial contracts.
  • Volunteer recruiters – these types of board members know how to find and recruit volunteers for your idea. They have contacts with schools, large volunteer organizations such as Boy/Girl Scouts, Church Youth Groups, etc.  Remember, you’ll need energy to either carry out the function or raise money for the mission.
  •  The Club – this member is not a high end doer, but a socializer. He or she is involved in many clubs or organizations because they enjoy socializing. Their purpose on your board is to get you into those clubs for access to resources. Think of this individual as the doorman. He/She will let you in the front door to gain access to money/volunteers/new board members.

You need all these types of personalities on your board to have a chance at true success. If you did the first step above in identifying resources, this part will be easy. All you need to do is get more board members and you’ll have these personality traits on your board in no time.

Now, it is time to get them together. In my next post about Non-Profit Organizations, I’ll explain how you gather them together, convey your idea and begin the process of forming a non-profit organization. Act on Knowledge.

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