Building the Optimal Board for Your Nonprofit Organization

Building the Optimal Board for Your Nonprofit Organization

By Cynthia Albert Link

Creating an effective board for your nonprofit organization is essential to its success. A well-rounded board can provide the expertise, experience, and support necessary to achieve your mission. Utilize this guide to help you build the optimal board by focusing on key goals and evaluating your current board’s composition.

What Qualities and Attributes Would Your Ideal Board Possess?

Before assembling or restructuring your board, it’s crucial to identify what qualities and skills you are looking for among board members. These goals will help you identify strengths that are missing, and help you define the type of individuals you seek. Consider the following primary traits when recruiting board members.

Expertise and Experience

Your board members should bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the table. Look for individuals with skills in areas like finance, legal affairs, strategy, marketing, fundraising, and governance. Their professional backgrounds should align with your organization’s needs and strategic objectives. A collective diverse skill set, and varying levels of experience helps to ensure that your board can tackle a variety of challenges and opportunities.


Diversity is a cornerstone of an effective board. It brings a range of perspectives and ideas, fostering innovation and inclusive decision-making. Aim to recruit members from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, genders, age groups, and geographic regions. Diverse professional experience and philanthropic capacity are also crucial. This diversity will not only enhance your board’s problem-solving abilities but also strengthen its connection to the communities you serve.

Dedication of Time, Talent, and Treasure

Board members must be committed to dedicating their time, talent, and treasure to your cause. This means attending meetings regularly, participating in committees, and actively contributing to fundraising efforts. Board members should leverage their networks, skills, and financial resources to support the organization. Their dedication can significantly impact your nonprofit’s ability to achieve its goals. While it is ideal to attract Board members with time, talent, and treasure, individuals who offer two out of three may still be welcome additions.

What Is Your Board’s Current Composition?

To build the optimal board, assess your current board’s composition. Understanding the present makeup will help you identify gaps and areas for focus. Review the areas identified below to see where your board could benefit from targeted recruitment.

Professional Experience

What are the professional backgrounds of your current board members? Do they have a good mix of skills and expertise? If your board is heavy on legal professionals but light on public relations or marketing, consider recruiting individuals with the needed skills to balance the board’s capabilities.

Race and Ethnicity

Evaluate the racial diversity of your board. A racially diverse board can better understand and address the needs of the communities you serve. If your board lacks diversity, make an intentional effort to recruit members from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups.


Assess the gender diversity on your board. Gender diversity can enhance the board’s decision-making and problem-solving processes. Strive for a balanced representation of genders to ensure varied perspectives.


Having a mix of ages can bring fresh ideas and long-term perspectives. Younger members can introduce new technologies and trends, while older members can offer wisdom and experience. Board members who have served an extended period can sometimes provide important historical context.


If all your board members are from the same area, you might miss out on valuable insights from different regions. Geographic diversity can help your organization understand and address broader issues affecting your organization.


Examine the philanthropic level and participation rate from your board. This includes how many members participate each year, the percentage of total support your organization receives annually and during recent campaigns. Board members should set an example for other donors. If philanthropic support from your board comes up short, you may need to set clearer expectations and recruit members with a stronger commitment to financial contributions.

How to Build Your Optimal Board

After evaluating your current board’s composition, you can start making strategic efforts to build the optimal board.

Here are some steps to consider:

1. Identify Gaps and Set Goals: Based on your assessment, identify any gaps in expertise, diversity, or philanthropy. Set clear goals for what attributes you want to achieve with your new board members.

2. Recruit Strategically: Look for individuals who meet your goals. Use your network, community connections, and professional organizations to find potential board members. Consider forming a nominating committee to oversee the recruitment process.

3. Set Expectations: Clearly communicate the expectations for board members regarding time, talent, and treasure. Ensure that all potential members understand and commit to these expectations before joining the board.

4. Provide Orientation and Training: Once new members are onboard, provide thorough orientation and ongoing training. This will help them understand their roles, the organization’s mission, and how they can contribute effectively. Consider assigning each new member to a board member with longer tenure. Orientations that include a buddy system help new members build relationships with senior staff and fellow members.

5. Foster an Inclusive Culture: Create an inclusive board culture where all members feel valued and heard. Encourage open dialogue, respect diverse opinions, and ensure that decision-making processes are transparent and collaborative. Establish outreach with periodic calls from your organization’s senior leadership to underscore that each board member’s opinion matters.

Building the optimal board for your nonprofit organization is a continuous process. Regularly assess your board’s composition, set new goals, and recruit strategically to ensure that your board evolves to meet the changing needs of your organization and the communities you serve. With a strong, diverse, and committed board, your nonprofit will be well-equipped to achieve its mission and make a lasting impact.

The Angeletti Group provides board development and counsel to nonprofit organizations. Contact us today for more information.

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