Wednesday, March 7, 2018

LESSON 16 - Date Board Prospects Before You Propose Marriage

Welcome to Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom Blog, a 40-week journey through the new book, Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom, by Dan Busby and John Pearson. Each Wednesday, we're featuring a guest writer’s favorite snippet from the week's topic. Terry Stokesbary is our guest blogger this week for the second of four lessons in "Part 5: Boardroom Bloopers.” 

LESSON 16 OF 40 - 
Date Board Prospects Before You Propose Marriage
He served the shortest board term in the history of the world!

 In Lesson 16, we read the humorous (but unfortunate) blooper about “Tom,” a board prospect, who was fast-tracked onto the board without the requisite due diligence. And even worse, he counted seven “cringe moments” in his first board meeting.

The good news: after his first board meeting, Tom exited the board. Hopefully, that was a wake-up call for the board to get their ducks in a row.

This lesson notes four key steps when “dating” and on-boarding a board prospect: cultivation, recruitment, orientation, and engagement.

MY FAVORITE INSIGHTS from Lesson 16, pages 79-83: 
•  “If you’re married, it’s unlikely that you proposed marriage on your first date. Effective boards don’t invite candidates onto the board after just one steak lunch.”
“The ‘hire slower and fire faster’ axiom applies to board prospects also.”
• John Pellowe: “God’s individual call is normally in line with the gifts that you already have. If the ministry’s mission is not closely tied to your interests, your board service will be a draining experience.” 

In the Board Leadership & Development Program at M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, we’ve been privileged to educate and inspire hundreds of CEOs and board members to be effective stewards of their governance roles and responsibilities.

We’ve observed that one commonality among nonprofit boards is the temptation to fill board slots with a “friend-of-a-friend of Cousin Eddie”—rather than taking time for discernment and the “dating” process. So when we talk about the four phases of board recruitment, it immediately makes sense to board members and the lights come on!

Consequently, we have provided each organization in the board program with the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members - Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation, and Engagement. This helpful resource is referenced in Lesson 16 and we’re grateful to ECFA for all of their excellent governance resources.


Terry Stokesbary is the Senior Program Director for Enrichment Initiatives at the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. He is responsible for overseeing the Trust’s work in the area of Enrichment Initiatives—including the Board Leadership & Development Program which he initiated and continues to lead. Prior to the Trust, Terry served nearly 25 years with Young Life where he held several leadership positions. There he invested time in both training and strategic growth initiatives. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science, and welcomes opportunities to work with individuals and organizations in a variety of areas, including organizational growth and leadership development.

• Before you fast-track prospects onto your board, be sure your nominating committee views the “Recruiting Board Members” toolbox video from ECFA.
• Review the four phases of board recruitment (cultivation, recruitment, orientation, and engagement) and discern which phase needs work. Create an improvement plan today.


On March 14, 2018, watch for Tami Heim's commentary on Lesson 17, "Sidetrack Harebrained Ideas. Some motions should never gain unmerited oxygen."

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