August 15, 2008

Tips on Recruiting New Board Members

Many charities struggle to recruit the right board members and get them involved in fund raising.

They can take a lesson from Carol Weisman, a St. Louis consultant. In addition to her work advising charity boards to improve their fund-raising and other skills, Ms. Weisman has recruited many trustees herself.

Ms. Weisman says she once filled the board of a new nonprofit organization that fights child sexual abuse with the help of her manicurist. The manicurist and her three partners all agreed to wear a lapel pin at work that said, “Ask me how I can stop child sexual abuse.”

Because so many influential people in town visited the shop, Ms. Weisman says that she quickly recruited 17 new members from the people who expressed an interest in the pins.

A common mistake people make in trying to recruit new board members is “to assume No means No forever,” she says. “What I do is ask, ‘Are you not interested today or forever?’”

Ms. Weisman says she is asking that question a lot in her current effort to transform the board of a local group that works to preserve hiking trails and other recreational spaces. So far, Ms. Weisman says, she has recruited two new board members in the last two months.

“I have a list of 15 high-powered individuals on my list,” she says. “I ask if I can call them next year, and I make sure that a board member invites them to an event as a guest. I tell them I am going to do that.”