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7 Key Qualities of Excellent Nonprofit Board Members

It is widely accepted that the success of a nonprofit organization is dependent on the effectiveness of its members. Organizations must be diligent in recruiting nonprofit board members to fill both new & existing board positions.

New recruits should be highly skilled, educated and knowledgeable about the organization’s mission. However, it is also important to note that knowledge alone is not enough.  It is often the intangible traits and qualities that members possess that set high performing boards apart from the rest.

Here are 7 traits to look for when recruiting nonprofit board members.

1. Passion For The Cause

Finding nonprofit board members who are passionate about the organization’s cause should be a top priority when looking to fill board positions. Far too many people join organizations for self serving reasons. Perhaps it is to further their career or to build networks within the community. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, the fact remains that some people take on roles for which they have little passion.


Passion not only enables creativity and innovation, it also fuels action. An individual passionate about a cause will put more contribution and effort towards the overall mission. Passion is also contagious and can affect the contributions of other nonprofit board members.

2. Committed to Service

As much as people look to join an organization for self serving reasons, it is important to understand that being a nonprofit board member is an act of service. An effective nonprofit board member should put the interests of the public as well as the organization above their own needs. 

3. Highly Engaged In The Organizations Cause

Many people agree to serve on nonprofit boards without full appreciation for how much time and effort will be required. It is important that nonprofit board members have a good understanding of the commitment upfront. Clearly outline member expectations and ensure that they can meet the requirements laid out. This can include things such as

  • Meeting attendance and participation
  • Participation in committees
  • Participation in community outreach programs

4. Connection To The Community

Board members who have strong connections to the community are a huge asset to the organization as their networks can open the door to added opportunities and resources. New recruits and volunteers can be sought through these networks. Programs can also be better implemented when informed by those with a connection to the community.

5. A Willingness To Learn 

Although members should have a strong understanding of the organization’s mission, a willingness to learn from others is another important asset that should be sought after.

An individual committed to learning and development is able to advance their skills and motivate others within the organization to do so as well. The likelihood of achieving excellent results is greatly improved when members are committed to their personal development.

6. Willingness To Contribute Financially To The Mission

Many people who agree to serve on a board have the mindset that giving their time is enough of a contribution to the cause. The fact remains that the one of the main responsibilities that the organization has is to raise funds to support the mission.

Regardless of the amount given, an excellent nonprofit board member leads by example by supporting the organization with a financial donation. 

The issue of financial donations from members can often be a contentious topic. It is up to each board to choose how to address the topic. It is also important to be clear on your policies from the start to avoid confusion and potential problems down the line.


7. Ability To Effectively Resolve Conflicts

It is important to recognize that conflicts can arise in all group settings. The key is to not avoid those conflicts, but to have members who are committed to resolving those conflicts in an effective way. When this happens, people feel liberated and are more willing to approach situations without fear.

Keeping these traits in mind when recruiting new board members will ensure that you are filling your board with individuals who will drive your organization to success.

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