Healthy foundation boards do all of the following to reinvigorate themselves—each step feeding into the others:
- Identify—Determine what your board needs (e.g., skills, knowledge, perspective, connections; diversity of age, gender, ethnicity, or other demographic factors) and those sources that can direct you to potential trustees possessing the characteristics your board is seeking.
- Cultivate—Build an inclusive pool of trustee prospects. Interest them in the foundation and keep them informed of your progress.
- Recruit—When you recruit prospects, explain why your board wants and needs a prospective trustee. Describe board expectations and responsibilities—and do not minimize the requirements. Invite questions and elicit the prospective trustee’s interest and preparedness to serve.
- Orient—Introduce new trustees to the foundation’s history, bylaws, pressing issues, finances, giving priorities, recent board minutes, committees, trustee responsibilities, names of trustees and key staff members, and names of professional advisors.
- Engage—Discover trustees’ interests and availability and involve them in committees or task forces. Assign them a peer member on the board. Solicit feedback. Hold everyone accountable. Express appreciation for work well done.
- Educate—Provide your board with information concerning foundations and your grantmaking areas. Promote exploration of issues facing the foundation. Don’t hide difficulties.
- Rotate—Rather than automatically reelecting a board member for an additional term, consider the board’s needs and the trustee’s performance. Rotate trustees, as appropriate. Cultivate new and future foundation leadership.
- Evaluate—Assess the board and individual trustees. Engage the board in assessing its own performance and identify ways to improve. Encourage individual self-assessment.
- Celebrate—Recognize victories and progress, even small ones. Appreciate individual contributions to the board, foundation, and community. Make room for humor.
(The preceding list was adapted from the book The Board Building Cycle: Nine Steps to Finding, Recruiting, and Engaging Nonprofit Board Members by Sandra R. Hughes, Berit M. Lakey, and Marla J. Bobowick.)
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