Gail Perry

Gail Perry knows how to fire up a board! But first you have to have the right kind of people in place. Gail shares what she looks for in a enlisting board members. If you want to learn more, this Thursday Gail will join us for a Pass Holder webinar called 7 Steps to Enlist and Build Your Dream Team Board. ~Kivi

Guest Post by Gail Perry of Fired-Up Fundraising

How do you determine who to ask to join the board of your wonderful cause?

If you really want to enlist a Dream Team Board, look for folks with these qualities.

And if you’d like a recruitment guide – you can use my 24-page Recruit Your Dream Team Board Workbook (it’s free to my subscribers.)

Here’s my short list of top qualities I want in a board member (warning – I’m biased – and this is not a politically correct list!):

1.    A person of influence and connections.

Above all, I like to have people who know other people and can make things happen. My favorite board member is someone who can pick up the phone and help us make a key connection.

This type of board member can open new doors for us and help us network at a new level. They know people with resources, and people who can influence others on our behalf.

2.    Deep passion for our work.

Do they have the passion and care for our mission? If they do not, they may bring a clinical approach to our work and miss the heart of what we do.

3.    Time and willingness.

Some of the most wonderful people simply don’t have the time. Even if they are wildly passionate, they may be on the road all the time or stacked up with family and work commitments.

Even the most passionate board member is unhappy if they feel that they are not fulfilling their commitment to the organization.

So be sure they have the time.

4.    Deep pockets and/or access to deep pockets.

I want someone who can open fundraising doors for us. Who do they know? What is their own giving potential?

Sorry but I like people on the board who can write the big check.

Not everybody on the board needs to be a deep pocket, but you certainly need some of them on your board.

5.    Current donor or volunteer.

Let’s hope your new board members are already donors. If they are not, I’d think twice!

And a loyal current donor might be just the passionate, knowledgeable, capable person your board needs.

6.    Reputation for balanced, sound, deliberate thoughts and actions.

How are her leadership skills? Is she a good team player? Can she handle ambiguity or robust discussions?

I like very much to know how someone operates within a group before I bring them into the mix.

You’ll be smart to vet them this way too.

7.    Experience on a nonprofit board.

Isn’t it wonderful to have folks who understand the nonprofit ball game?

If they are experienced, then there’s less chance of them trying to meddle in the staff’s work.

8.    Professional experience.

I find that people who have worked at some point in their lives are often better board members.

People who have some professional experience, I think, are better able to leave their personal “stuff” home and behave in an unemotional manner on the board. (Told you this wasn’t a politically correct list!)

9.    Fundraising experience.

People who already know and understand fundraising are invaluable.

Their knowledge and expertise helps to back up your own recommendations to the board about smart fundraising strategies.

They’ll save you time and energy and even heartache, because they will help

  • motivate the rest of the board,
  • set an example for everyone,
  • keep everyone else in line supporting a well-thought-out fundraising
  • plan.
  • reign in less-than-productive distracting fundraising strategies.

10. Knowledge of our community and our environment.

Again, a little experience wins. When you have board members who understand your unique community or the environment you operate within, it just save time and energy.

It’s like they are on your team before you start, and you don’t have to spend valuable time and energy educating them.

Now, here’s my disclaimer:

There’s an exception to every single attribute on my list.  One size doesn’t fit all boards – and like I said above, this is my own personal biased list.

It’s simply a sweeping generalization of what I have found over two decades of working with boards.

Bottom line:

Be clear and specific about the qualities you want in your new board members.

Define what and who you want and then go after those folks!

Gail Perry, CFRE, is a fundraising consultant and nationally recognized speaker. Gail is the author of Fired-Up Fundraising: Turn Board Passion into Action, published in 2007 by Wiley and AFP. She is recognized as a leading authority on engaging board members in fundraising and is a regular columnist for Guidestar’s on-line newsletter. She started her fundraising career at Duke University and then directed fundraising at the Kenan Flagler Business School at UNC – Chapel Hill. Gail is Past President of the Triangle-NC AFP Chapter and served on the task force at AFP International that re-wrote the First Course in Fundraising. She invites us to her blog at for lots of free fundraising resources.