Category Archives: Diversity

Nonprofit Board Leaders and CEOs: Find excellent board members with these simple tips

By Molly Hansen, Vice President, The Alford Group   Read Molly’s Bio

How to find great, or even good, nonprofit board members is an ongoing challenge. For many nonprofit organizations the board development issue feels especially urgent right now. The competition for good board members is increasing.

The philanthropic environment has nearly recovered from the Great Recession, but many philanthropists are still very cautious about where to invest their dollars, time and energy. Organizations who have been largely supported by government grants and contracts, their long-held intention to diversify their revenue through board members with financial capacity and connections, are now faced with the reality that it’s harder than they thought to find strong board members.

Regardless of the type of nonprofit you serve, its size, or the nature of your board and organizational funding, the following tips will help you get started on a productive path of board development.

One of the primary questions The Alford Group hears from both CEOs and board members is:

Where and how can we find the best board members? We keep asking our current board members to bring us names and either they say they don’t have connections to the ‘right people’ or they bring a list of names of the highest profile people in town that are on everyone’s list. Help!”

The first place to start is by asking yourself: What do we need from our board?

You may say, “We need people with money! We need corporate CEOs! We need connectors, people who have influence!”

Of course you do!

Let’s start with the characteristics that every nonprofit institution should have as their top priorities in seeking new board members. This strategic focus may lead you to those with affluence and influence.

5 key characteristics of excellent nonprofit board member candidates

#1 Passion

Your top board candidates will have genuine passion for your organization and its purpose – or at least an affinity for what your organization does or the population you serve. In some cases, excellent board members started as individuals who may not yet have this passion, but have the desire to learn more about what the organization does and the willingness to become involved and ultimately develop passion.

#2 Time AND treasure

Both time and treasure to help your organization fulfill its mission is key to engagement. Excellent board candidates are interested in fully participating – attending meetings regularly, actively serving on committees, etc. They are supportive, yet ready to ask the tough questions. And they have the capacity and willingness to make a personal contribution and engage in fundraising activities.

#3 Nonprofit board experience

Top candidates will understand good business practices and ideally have nonprofit board experience. Without specific experience, candidates should be able to embrace that nonprofit boards are governance boards and not management boards.

#4 Strategic thinking capabilities

He/she should be a strategic thinker with the ability to internalize the long-term vision of your work and an interest in ongoing learning in the organization’s field of service.

#5 Integrity

You should look for integrity – plain and simple. In nonprofit board candidates, integrity means a personal and public commitment to transparency in the organization’s finances and business practices, as well as the capacity and ability to follow through on board responsibilities.

4 places to look for excellent board members

#1 Current volunteers and/or major donors

Stop looking for new faces – the best candidates may be right in front of you! Take a look at your organization’s current volunteers and/or major donors. These are the people who are already sold on who you are and are passionate about your mission and vision. Even if the key volunteers and donors you meet with are not interested in joining your board, ask them for ideas and connections. Find those that have two degrees of separation to key board prospects.

#2 Relationships with your board and staff

One important activity to conduct is relationship mapping with your board and staff. Set aside time to brainstorm connections that your board members and staff members may have through their professional associations, alumni group, faith community, personal “vendors”, friends and neighbors. In addition to looking for specific board prospects within those groups, look also for people who can connect to others that may fill board roles. Remember, you are looking for the two degrees of separation!

#3 LinkedIn and VolunteerMatch.org

LinkedIn is a great resource for finding excellent board members. You can search by skills or even post a board opportunity. Check out LinkedIn Board Connect. Another great online resource is Volunteer Match.

#4 In the news

As you read the news to stay updated on topics and changes in your sector, keep an eye out for who is quoted in the articles and who is involved in the projects. Up and comers are often highlighted in business journals and magazines. Read their bios and be sure to look for affinities and connections.

Excellent board members are out there! The most important step you can take in finding them for your organization is to commit to taking action. Create a basic plan, gather your most engaged board members and get going. Here are three specific action steps to take right away.

Three Action Steps: 

1. Create a board matrix that indicates the demographics, professional skills and characteristics of your current board. Then identify where your gaps are that would be important to your organization.

2. Build your pipeline of board prospects based on the gaps you want to fill and the potential candidates that surfaced through your research.

3. Have a courtship before marriage. Recruiting board members needs to be a thoughtful and strategic vetting and cultivation practice.  

One of the easiest steps to take is to check out The Alford Group’s Board Member Toolkit.

The following are also a few excellent online sites that often provide free tools, webinars, and information.

BoardSource

GuideStar

National Council of Nonprofits

Good luck in recruiting your next excellent board member!

Diversity and Inclusion – the conversation between foundations and not-for-profits: Thoughts from Brenda Asare

What’s happening around diversity and inclusion among foundations?

At the AFP 2016 International Conference, Brenda Asare, President & CEO of The Alford Group spoke briefly about foundations and their interactions with not-for-profits around diversity and inclusion.

Having trouble viewing this video? See it here.

The Long Road to Equity is Paved with Data, Innovation and Optimism

At The Alford Group, diversity is one of our core values and we are proud to have been the diversity partner with AFP and the AFP Foundation for the past 17 years. We hosted this year’s AFP Diversity Session, “Foundations Empowering Change: Not Business As Usual,” which featured a facilitator and panelists who are committing funds, insights, counsel, social capital, time and other resources toward building diversity, equity, and inclusion in their own organizations and the organizations with which they partner. They are:

  • Linetta Gilbert, Managing Partner, Gilbert & Associates (Facilitator)
  • Miki Akimoto, U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management
  • HeHershe Busuego, The Boston Foundation
  • Beth Smith, The Hyams Foundation

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Let’s start at the very beginning…a very good place to start…

Remember that song from The Sound of Music? Just like Do-Re-Mi, we must understand and use a shared set of building blocks if we want to sing together. Linetta Gilbert provided us with a primer and reminder of the key terms and concepts we all need to use to share and advance our ongoing conversation. Continue reading

diversity art showcase

Diversity Art Showcase at AFP International

There were three remarkable winners of the Diversity Art Showcase at this year’s AFP International Conference. Laura, Oscar and Tali’s work depicts how they view philanthropy. The winners, all from Art with a Heart and Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore, explored the ideas of diversity and philanthropy through mixed media creations. Local artists judged the student’s artwork to award a first, second, and third place. The winning pieces were displayed in the Diversity Youth Art Showcase during AFP’s March 2015 International Fundraising Conference at the Baltimore Convention Center. The students were recognized throughout the conference, including at the opening plenary with 3,500 conference attendees in the audience.

Watch the video below to hear Brenda Asare, President & CEO of The Alford Group talk about our firm’s calling to engage the sector around diversity, and what the Diversity Session and Diversity Art Showcase bring to the artists, conference attendees and the broader AFP community.

See the photo gallery of the 2015 Showcase winners below.

Diversity Art Showcase at the AFP 2015 International Fundraising Conference, March 29-31, 2015, in Baltimore, Md. from AFP IHQ on Vimeo.

The Alford Group has been a proud sponsor of Diversity at the AFP Conference for 16 years. We hold a strong commitment to diversity as one of our core values, and continue to encourage conversation about diversity in the not-for-profit sector through many different lenses.

 

women leading philanthropy

Diversity in Fundraising: Women Leading Philanthropy

The Diversity Session at the AFP International Conference this year focused on Women in Philanthropy. This was the first time the session had revolved around that aspect of diversity, and the session was very well attended.

The session was introduced by Brenda A. Asare, The Alford Group’s President & CEO. A panel offering insight into their own experience as female philanthropists and researchers in the field included:

  • Una Osili, Director of Research at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
  • Sylvia Brown, Principal of Brown Capital Management, Inc.
  • Ann Allston Boyce, President of the board of The T. Rowe Price Associates Foundation

The trend our firm has seen, and that many researchers and practitioners have seen, over the past decade, is that women are becoming more influential in charitable giving and leveraging their power to influence philanthropic decision making. This trend guided the conversation for the panel, which focused its energy on helping attendees understand how women are changing the philanthropic landscape, how to shape strategy to effectively engage women philanthropists, and how to cultivate and steward women donors for maximum impact in their organizations.

In the past, most organizations focused their fundraising efforts on male donors, given the traditional assumption that women were not making philanthropic decisions for their households. As women have begun to increase their rates of college enrollment, women enter the workforce and into higher paying jobs, and as women increasingly outlive men, the philanthropic sector has begun to see an increase in the visibility of female participation as major donors. Whether by accumulated wealth through their own work, or inherited wealth from family or spouses, female donors are having a significant impact on philanthropic initiatives. And more frequently, couples are making philanthropic decisions together.

Women give in many ways. Researchers are finding that across income levels, there is a real interest in philanthropy among women. But it’s not just through treasure that women are looking to contribute – women are increasingly becoming involved through their time and talent. Women are present in leadership for philanthropic organizations, helping to lead fundraising campaigns, plan events, and offering their expertise on governing and auxiliary boards and as staff.

Dr. Una Osili, a member of the panel, oversees research into how and why gender matters is the Director or Research and Chair of the research council of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

“There are some really powerful examples of the dynamic role women are playing in philanthropy. A few examples include Women Moving Millions, the American Red Cross’ Tiffany Circle and Indiana University has a Women’s Philanthropy Council. In order to cultivate women donors, organizations have to think about how female donors might differ – how do they want to give, what do they want to give to, does being part of a network impact their giving?

“Establishing philanthropy through gender lines and understanding motivations is relatively under researched. As women play a more visible role, especially in leadership around the world, there is more interest in asking what are some things about my organization that can reduce barriers for women being involved? What is working elsewhere and how can I apply that to my own organization?”

The challenge of identifying how women want to engage in to the philanthropic landscape corresponds to the challenge of addressing diversity in philanthropy more broadly.

Dr. Osili says that “one size doesn’t fit all. When engaging with diverse communities, ethnically, religiously, multi-racial and multi-cultural donors, similar to female donors, you have to determine what are the barriers – how to ask, how to cultivate, what language and style is important to them. You have to use new approaches to bring new donors in – what worked in the past might not work for donors with different backgrounds, beliefs or cultures.”

She continues, “The broader message about women and diversity in philanthropy is that as the world become more connected and we interact much more with people of different backgrounds and characteristics, there are more opportunities to engage different types of donors – but you have to adapt to make your organization more inclusive of different types of donors.”

The Alford Group has been a sponsor of the Diversity Session and the Diversity Art Showcase at the AFP International Conference for 16 years. We hold a strong commitment to diversity as one of our core values, and continue to encourage conversation about diversity in the not-for-profit sector through many different lenses.