June 26, 2012

Seven Questions to Ask a Member of a Nonprofit Board in Your Nonprofit Due Diligence

This is the latest post in our new series on Nonprofit Due Diligence. Click on the links below to read previous posts. Join the conversation by commenting below or on Twitter at #NonprofitDueDiligence. You can follow Give Smart updates at @BridgespanGroup.

By: The Bridgespan Group
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.
  1. Why did you become involved in the organization, and what has your involvement looked like over time?
  2. How would you characterize the board’s role in the nonprofit organization?
  3. If this organization were to be on the cover of your favorite newspaper or magazine in five years, what would the story be about?
  4. How would you describe the goals of the organization, and how does the organization achieve these goals?
  5. How focused on results do you believe the organization is?
  6. 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?
  7. 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?
If you have time to cover more, refer to the "Full-Length Guide to Interviewing a Nonprofit Board Member." If you don’t feel ready to interview a nonprofit’s board member, consider reviewing the guides below or the article below that describes the characteristics of great nonprofit boards: In your nonprofit due diligence, do you typically interview one of the nonprofit’s board members? What questions do you ask?

Stay tuned for next week’s post on four red flags to look out for when researching a nonprofit’s leadership.


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