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How many board members should a nonprofit have?

If your nonprofit is new, making a tiny amount of money with events, or has a disengaged board, it might be time to get new board members.

How many board members should a nonprofit have? 4? 10?

If you look at your nonprofit’s articles of incorporation, you’ll see that you should have no less than 4 board members at any given time. Ideally you have between 10 and 12. Some leaders prefer a disengaged board, so they can do exactly as they like. Other boards are more hands-on.

Here’s my question to you. No matter who you get on your board, why are we having amateurs managing professionals? Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Maybe we should pay board members, if we want them to show up and do the work.

Do you have a board job description? If not, go back to the articles, and see that you’ll be required to meet once a month or once a quarter. That’s a No-no on nepotism- the board members cannot be related to the founder or executive director. Once you’ve got all of this sorted out, you’ll need to find new board members.

Where do you find these new board members?

You want people high up in a corporation, so that they can approve thousands to sponsor your event, or a year-end gift to your organization, if they have left over marketing dollars in their budget. You also want people who have used your services, who are passionate about your mission.

  1. Go to the Business Journal’s Book of Lists for your city, or check out LinkedIn, they have board member interests you can search by as well.
    Who are the biggest employers?
    Which are the fastest growing companies?
    What about the richest companies?
    And Who are the biggest givers in your city?
  2. Find one high ranking person from each biggest employer to call. 20-30 calls, max.
  3. Choose one high ranking person from each fast company to call. Ditto
  4. Pick one high ranking person from each rich company to call. Ditto
  5. And finally, pick ten high ranking people from the most philanthropic businesses to call.

How to structure your call for a new board member

You should call at 7am on a Thursday morning, to get past the gatekeepers.

Ask the person if they have heard of your cause.
If not, ask them if they would like to hear what you do.
This person may have already sat on a board, but if not, ask them if they are interested in serving on a nonprofit board.
They are not always going to be the right person, but ask them if they know anyone within the organization who would be interested.
If they don’t know anyone, ask them if they know anyone outside of the organization who would be interested.


Then, if you are still coming up with nothing, pick someone else from that company to call. It can be useful to look at other organizations similar to yours, and their old annual reports, to see who used to sit on their board, and try to reach out to that person.

And you can always call back and ask for other things, such as:

  • Ask them if their company would be interested in doing a day of service for employees, or ongoing volunteer activities for employees.
  • Ask them if they have an employee giving program, or if they’d like to start one.

Keep going. Every no leads to a yes. I’m proud of you for asking.

PS. If you’ve got another way of finding nonprofit board members, I’d love to hear it. Please leave it in the comments below. Thank you!

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