Members of nonprofit boards are typically passionate champions of the organizations that they serve. After all, they freely donate their time, skills and, usually, money to the cause. Speaking with a board member— ideally the chairperson—will allow you to tap into that passion and learn more about the organization.
A conversation with a nonprofit’s board member will also help you pressure test the impression you have formed to date. Does this person’s perspective align with others you have heard? Do the organization’s leaders and the board share priorities and agree on the same challenges and opportunities?
You may find that you need to work with the board to fulfill your philanthropic vision—will that sort of collaboration be possible? Talking, even briefly, with a board member can reveal how the board operates and how receptive its members are to input and new ideas.
Again, take care to balance your desire to learn more with the time you’re asking of busy individuals.
If you only have an hour, posing the seven questions below should help you cover the most important ground. If you have enough time to cover more, download the full set of questions.
Seven critical questions:
- Why did you become involved in the organization, and what has your involvement looked like over time?
- How would you characterize the board’s role in the nonprofit organization?
- If this organization were to be on the cover of your favorite newspaper or magazine in five years, what would the story be about?
- How would you describe the goals of the organization, and how does the organization achieve these goals?
- How focused on results do you believe the organization is?
- What attributes does the executive director have that will enable him or her to accomplish the nonprofit’s goals? Are there areas of professional development on which the executive director should be focused?
- How do you bring on new board members? Tell me about the most recent addition to the board. Can you discuss the capabilities of the board individually and collectively?