Different Angles 7: Cultivating (and Recruiting) New Board Members

Issue 7: August, 2014

In This Issue

  • Recruiting New Board Members: an overview and exercise
  • Featured Training: Cultivating Accountability and Empowerment Through Relational Engagement
  • Free Organizational Boulders Assessment

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Another August has rolled into (and nearly out of) Portland, and I am realizing that it has been a year since I sent out an issue of Different Angles!  It’s been a big and exciting year for me as I have expanded to do more training both at conferences and for Home Forward and Multnomah County, wrapped up a couple of long-term capacity-building projects with two amazing nonprofits, and got my mother through knee replacement surgery!

All this has meant I have not been making time to write articles, but in July I was again asked to work with the Center for Nonprofit Stewardship (CNS) to create a “Tips from the Experts” article and a 10 minute board exercise, this time on recruiting new board members. This provides a lovely opportunity for me to do what I did last August, and pass on a slightly expanded version of that article here, along with a link to the board exercise and some related resources on the Center for Nonprofit Stewardship’s wonderful website.

If you don’t already know CNS, I encourage you to explore [their website](http://www.nonprofitsteward.org).  In addition to a bunch of great 10 minute board exercises, you’ll find many other downloadable resources, and listings for their new online board training and their live and in-person workshops.  I’ll be teaching again at their one day board training in Corvallis, on January 24th.

I hope you are all getting a chance to enjoy this last week of August before Portland puts it’s shoulder to the grindstone again as September rolls in!

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Identifying and Connecting with Stakeholders—an overview and exercise for boards

(This article is an expanded version of the article I did for the July newsletter of the Center for Nonprofit Stewardship.  My thanks to Angela Norman and Kathy DeYoung for asking me to take it on, and for working with me to hone it and the exercises that go with it.)

For many organizations, meeting your goals in recruiting new board members is challenging.  The work is often left until a few months — or weeks — before a board election and/or becomes a focus only when you are trying to diversify your board in specific ways.  This is stressful, and often leads to less than stellar results.

Board recruitment is best seen as an on-going process of identifying, nurturing and cultivating relationships and leadership.  The tips below will hopefully help you transition to a more sustainable board cultivation process.

a) Identify Core Values.  Instead of sitting around the board room table asking, “Who do we know?”, start by identifying your organization’s core values. As a group, get clear about the question, “Who is ‘us’?” and “What are our values?”

b) Identify Others with Overlapping Values.  Knowing your core values will make it easier to identify people and organizations outside your existing networks whose values and goals overlap with yours in ways that make them good strategic partners. (see the 10 Minute Board Exercise in Identifying Program Stakeholders, from enews issue #4.)

c) Initiate Connection.  Create relationships with those people and organizations, not necessarily by asking for their help or participation, but by having an open-ended, curiosity-based conversation about goals, values, and what inspires you and them. The key here is to focus on learning about each other. Go slow. This is about relationship building, not recruiting help immediately. That first conversation should end with an ask that sounds like “Would you like to have a follow-up conversation?” If the answer is yes…

d) Build Relationships.  Discover ways that your values or goals might overlap and look for ways that your organization might add value to their work. Perhaps offer to be involved in something they care about before asking them to do something for you. Once these relationships are established, many of these folks will become active stakeholders for the organization and you can draw on them in a variety of ways.

e) Develop Leaders.  Involve these individuals through a strong committee and working group structure, and nurture them as leaders.  This leadership development process should be very proactive, and a central part of the work of your board.

f) Identify What You Need on Your Board.  Assess what skills and qualities you need in board members, so you know what you are looking for as you identify people to recruit in any given year.  Arty Trost’s Introductory Exercise in Team Building from CNS’s enews issue 9 is a great place to start that assessment. You can continue the process using the exercise I designed for enews issue 12 (the link is below under “Do The Exercise”).

Join the conversation…

  • How do you develop new leaders in your organization?
  • Do you have other suggestions for board cultivation and recruitment?

You can ask questions, share your experiences, and be part of the conversation below.

g) Frame Board Service as Part of a Continuum of Volunteer Leadership.  Inviting people with whom you already have relationships (via the earlier steps) to become board members, or take other leadership roles, is a natural progression. New board members who come to board service having already been part of the work of your organization will be able to acclimate to board life more quickly. If, when approaching someone about joining the board, you ask if they are interested in stepping into new kinds of leadership and offer options that include board service, you give them a chance to say “board service isn’t going to work for me this year, but I’d be happy to (do some other particular thing you’ve discussed).”  This enriches your organization across the leadership spectrum and, since they are staying engaged in other ways, they are more likely to step into board service at a later date.

Do The Exercise

Use this 10 minute board exercise on the Center for Nonprofit Stewardship’s website to jump-start the process.

Here is a link to the full Center for Nonprofit Stewardship enews where the original (shorter) version of the article appears.

Join the conversation…

•  How do you develop new leaders in your organization?

•  Do you have other suggestions for board cultivation and recruitment?

You can ask questions, share your experiences, and be part of the conversation below.

Pass it on!

If you know people you think might find this article useful, please send them a link. Thanks!

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Featured Training: Cultivating Accountability and Empowerment Through Relational Engagement

This workshop provides staff (particularly those involved in resident services) with new tools they can use to cultivate accountability and empowerment in the residents they serve. While it is rooted in co-active coaching tools, it does not intend that staff will suddenly shift from what they have been doing to providing intensive coaching. Instead it is designed to help them incorporate simple tools into the work they are already doing; tools that will both make their jobs easier, and create better outcomes as residents get more clarity about what is important to them and why, and step into their own strengths to reach their goals.

This interactive workshop invites participants to step out of the “expert” role when it comes to helping people make new and better choices, to let go of their own assumptions and agendas and use active listening tools – empathy, reflecting back, acknowledging, asking powerful questions – to shift from adding things to residents’ “should” lists to helping them identify what they want and how to get it.

All of these tools can also be used in team-building with co-workers and volunteers, and in supervision. This workshop is based on many years of work, but is rooted specifically in a training series I am currently doing for Home Forward staff.

Could your organization or conference use a workshop that provides staff with concrete tools for empowering residents and helping them be more accountable to their own goals?

I’m offering the two-hour version of this workshop for $250 inside the Portland Metro Region (outside the region I add travel expenses). It is an inspiring and practical introduction to the framework and a few key tools, and will give participants what they need to start making changes. A 90-minute conference version, and longer versions that provide more tools and more opportunity for practice and application to existing organizational challenges, are also available.

You can lock in the price by getting the training scheduled by September 30th — it can happen anytime in 2014.

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Looking for in-house training designed to meet the specific needs of your staff or board?

I specialize in providing unorthodox, effective training that gives you powerful new tools to address the goals and challenges you are actually facing.

What People Say (from workshop evaluations):

“A very different way of viewing and dealing with difficulties. It was rewarding and had very good results.”

“(provided)…new paths toward solutions — clearing away the clutter”

“Gives you tangible tools to use on your own.”

“Exceeded my expectations”

You’ll find more about my approach to training on the website.  Please contact me to talk about your needs and what I can offer.

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Do you feel like you keep running into boulders inside your organization as you try to get your work done?

Red River Boulders (Rob)Get an Organizational Boulders Assessment!

This free, 90 minute assessment is designed to give you:

  • New perspectives and insights into what’s causing many of the challenges to effective teamwork and leadership development in your organization (where you are pushing boulders uphill when you don’t have to be);
  • New tools you can use immediately to address some of the core causes of your organization’s internal challenges;
  • A renewed sense of what is possible, and renewed energy for making needed shifts happen; and
  • A list of next steps for making your organization’s internal work easier and more effective.

If you are interested in setting up a Boulders Assessment, please contact me.

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