How Do I Choose a Non-profit Board of Directors?

How to build a nonprofit boardOnce you’ve done your non-profit research and created a business plan, you know the what and why of your organization. Now you must decide who. Figuring out who you want to work with is a big decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. After all, these are the people who will be advocates for your business, leaders in your mission, and the face of the entity. These people will be your board of directors.

When choosing a non-profit board of directors, there are many things to consider. Here are some ideas to help you find passionate people that will get the job done.

Identify preferred qualities

You may be tempted to choose your non-profit board of directors from a community or group you already know—for example, your friends, family, or any other social group made up of people you like. Though you enjoy spending time with these people, you must go the extra mile and seek out those who exhibit what you need in order to run the organization successfully. These qualities may be rooted in passion, efficiency, transparency, or availability. Whatever vision you have for the non-profit business, your board members must be able to embrace it. Use their best qualities to your advantage.

Generate interview questions

Once you’ve identified potential candidates, generate interview questions that will dig deep into who they are and what they value. Questions that result in “yes” or “no” answers aren’t terribly helpful. Don’t be afraid to push further. It’s imperative to remember that their performance will help determine the success of your non-profit.

Here are some examples of strong interview questions:

  • What does our mission and vision mean to you?
  • How much time do you have to commit to philanthropic duties?
  • What experience do you have with fundraising?
  • How comfortable are you with fundraising via your existing network?

Listen to your candidate’s responses and think critically about how this might apply to the future of your organization. Some values shouldn’t be compromised, but consider that your candidates may represent a different viewpoint that will be vital in serving your demographic. Include directors who aren’t always in total agreement you—being challenged can often lead to the best ideas.

Create diversity

Recruiting a board with diverse points of view is essential to a nonprofit’s success. Each board member will bring his or her own personal and professional contacts and life experiences to their service on your nonprofit board. Attracting members with different skill sets as well as different personal and professional contacts will accelerate the growth of the nonprofit’s network and result in better decision making.

Avoid conflicts of interest

Finally, select board members who will not present a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest can be identified in a number of ways. Perhaps the candidate already works for another non-profit or for-profit company that contradicts your mission and vision. Look closely at the candidate’s financial ties. These kinds of details become paramount in the ongoing health of your non-profit.

With the right preparation and the confidence to identify your needs, you can build an effective non-profit board of directors. We’re passionate about helping non-profits get off the ground and achieve long-term success, which is why we created a free download to share the lessons we’ve learned over our years of seeing non-profits succeed and fail. Get your copy now: How to start a non-profit organization.

Ellis Carter is a nonprofit lawyer with Caritas Law Group, PC. To contact Ellis, call 602-456-0071 or email us at


Leave a Reply