I recently fielded a couple questions on my blog from Tonya. She wanted to know:
- How many board members should you have on your nonprofit board?
- How many different nonprofit boards should you have? For example, an Executive Board and a Fundraising Board.
These are both great questions — and ones I’ve been asked many times before.
Just how many board members should your nonprofit have?
Have you heard the expression “herding cats?”
It’s often used to describe the difficulty of corralling board members. Unfortunately, this perceived challenge of getting board members “on board” leads organizations to err on the side of too few board members.
When I talk about the advantages of a bigger board, I often get pushback because it is difficult to work with so many board members and “personalities.”
15 at a bare minimum.
In my experience however, even small organizations need at least fifteen board members. Yes, fifteen. Ideally, you’ll have seventeen, or even nineteen, people on your board. Here’s why:
- A larger board means more people to serve on committees, serve as advocates for your nonprofit, provide expanded levels of expertise, extend the reach of your nonprofit (via board member networks) — and yes, help with fundraising!
- Board diversity is essential. This includes a diversity of professions, age, race, gender, areas of expertise — the list goes on, and will vary a bit depending on the scope and mission of your organization. If your board is too small you’re automatically going to miss out on the benefits that a diverse group of people bring to the table.
If you have less than fifteen board members on your nonprofit board, it’s time to start recruiting.
How many separate boards should you have?
Now let’s talk about the idea of having multiple boards to serve different functions.
A separate board for fundraising?
Yes, it’s true that some nonprofits have separate boards for fundraising. But this generally only happens with very large organizations.
We’re talking about entities like hospitals or large museums. These types of nonprofits are so complex, and the work they do is so diverse, that they can afford to recruit people into different boards that serve different areas.
Not only that, but generally they can also afford the staff to serve the needs of two or more boards — everything from coordinating meetings and committees to making sure the minutes get out. Sometimes these large institutions even create entire foundations for the specific purpose of taking care of fundraising.
Keeping it simple.
If yours is a small or even medium sized nonprofit and/or you’re just starting out, keep it simple!
You don’t need to create separate boards. You also don’t need the kind of work that goes into managing them. Finally, you don’t want to create a separate fundraising board so that your current board members don’t need to fundraise.
Recruit the right people into your board, and orient and train them correctly and efficiently, and you’ll never need to worry about creating a separate fundraising board for your small nonprofit. The talent you need will already be right there!
This Week’s Task
Do you have at least fifteen board members? If not, create or reenergize your nominating/board development committee. If you already have a large board, is it diverse in every sense of the word?
Schedule a meeting to discuss your recruitment process and strategy. Remember to keep diversity in mind, as well as reaching out to people who already have a track record as volunteer fundraisers.
How many board members do you have? How has that number been working? Tell me in the comments.
This post is part of my Year of the Fundraising Board series. Check out the entire series to learn how to create a stronger, smarter, and super motivated nonprofit board.