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Four Types of Board Members - And Why to Recruit Each, Pt. 1

MALF is pleased to present this two-part miniseries on Friends leadership recruitment, adapted with permission from a piece originally prepared by and for Library Strategies, our office management firm. We've heard from you, our members, that this is a topic of great and increasing importance.

When a Friends or Foundation board looks for new directors, it can be tempting to prioritize deep pockets over all else. It’s an understandable impulse. After all, fundraising is a major part of our “raison d’être,” and most nonprofit boards boast an 80%+ giving rate.  

Even so, board donations alone will never sustain your organization. As you vet new directors, consider other assets candidates could bring to the table to further your mission. Specifically, don’t overlook potential directors who fit one of these four profiles.

1) Curtain Raisers. No matter how well-networked you are, odds are that you yourself do not know everyone in the community who might be receptive to aiding your organization in some big way. Whether you are seeking more large donations, new leaders to fill upcoming vacancies – or, more likely still, some combination – turn to your board’s Curtain Raisers.

Put simply, Curtain Raisers facilitate new connections; these adroit networkers are your best bet for reaching as-yet-untapped contributors. Studies have conclusively shown that in-person, one-on-one asks from a passionate personal connection are the best way to increase your fundraising and recruitment reach.

You can get the most out of your Curtain Raisers by doing two things. First, actively identify areas in which they can help. (“We are $5k short of our campaign goal. Do you know anyone who might bridge that gap for us?” “Our treasurer’s term is up next year, and we don’t have a finance person on deck to replace her. Do you know anyone?”) Second, as problems or opportunities arise, be receptive to their referrals and encourage them to reach out to strong prospects (“I might know someone who can help…”)

2) Friend Raisers. Friend Raisers (alternatively known as “Cheerleaders”) are much like Curtain Raisers in several key respects. They boast a robust network and are willing to tap into it to benefit your organization. However, whereas Curtain Raisers are invaluable in securing sizable donations or long-term commitments, Friend Raisers cast a wider net and are valuable allies in furtherance of one-off or shorter-term programming and publicity efforts.

If your Friends group or Foundation hosts special events of any kind – be they ticketed galas, free library programs, or one-off parties to celebrate a major milestone of some kind – look to your Friend Raisers. They will drum up attendants who might not otherwise have heard of your programs, and – just as critically – stoke enthusiasm among those who are within your sphere but may not have turned out otherwise.

Attending an in-library author reading, annual gala, or even a well-orchestrated used book sale represents a minimal commitment on the part of those approached. However, if you leave a positive and lasting impression, you may sow the seeds for a donation (or time commitment) at a later date.

What of the other two psychographic profiles, Barn Raisers and Consciousness Raisers? Keep your eyes peeled for our next e-newsletter!