Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 12:00pm
posted by
Jessie Singer
Executive Director,
American Lung Association
in California

A philanthropist recently asked me, knowing that I’d be looking for new Board Members soon, what types of people I was in need of. He mentioned business CEOs, lawyers, university presidents, HR professionals, marketing gurus, etc. etc. As I sat there and thought for a moment, waiting for one/all of those to jump out at me, I realized that none did. There is something I am looking for in a perfect Board Member that no one can buy (with any financial amount), it’s not something that is needed in a certain type of position nor is it a certain skillset. I am seeking a Board Member who has passion.

Some Board Members can give lots of money, whether it be their own or that from their company, and come with tremendous financial support. Other Board Members feel that their knowledge base or background is sufficient because they are bringing new skills to the organization. The best Board Members, in my opinion, are the ones who bring passion about the nonprofit’s mission and are willing to share this with others.

Sharing passion is something that you can not equate to any financial amount. These Board Members can make introductions to companies, open doors to new sponsors and recruit top-notch volunteers. They do this by sharing their connection to the organization with others and once their passion oozes, it’s hard to stop this contagious feeling. People want to be around others doing great things, right? Well then send these Board Members out in the community because people like hearing from volunteers sharing a story, rather than a staff member pitching for money.

When I go on an “exploratory meeting” or I am going to meet a new company that I hope to partner with, it’s more effective for me to bring someone with a personal story tied to the cause than anything else. Don’t you find yourself to be more intrigued when you can pet the puppy, see the child struggling in school or watch the sad progression of that person fighting for their health? It’s true because those are the things that tug at our heartstrings. Let this person tell their story, share their passion and open new doors for the organization.

Regardless of their financial contribution this person may be able to bring in multiple new companies, donors, and supporters that could exponentially grow your current financial base. Sure, they may need some basic training about the organization, but let them share their story and why they believe in the organization that you are representing. I think you’ll find this to be way more effective that the average Board Member who makes a financial contribution.

Next time you are seeking new Board Members put away that matrix you made, the spreadsheet of needs and recruit people who have passion. You may not be able to put a price tag on this person, but you can put this Board Member to work start building new relationships with potentially multiple new donors.

Many of you may recognize Jessie’s name as she was the previous Executive Director for Dysart Community Center in El Mirage, AZ. Jessie left Arizona at the end of 2012, but is fully committed to the nonprofit industry. Jessie is a National Board Member for YNPN (ynpn.org) and YNPNsd (ynpnsandiego.org). Jessie grew up in Chicago before moving to Tucson to become a University of Arizona Wildcat for life, landed in Phoenix to start her professional career and is now enjoying life in sunny San Diego. Jessie is also a 2011-2012 Generation Next Nonprofit Leadership Academy. She is a true advocate for young professionals to take a stand and not let fear get in their way.


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