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3/6/2015 12:00 AM

These strategies from Board & Administrator Editor Jeff Stratton can help you identify younger members for the board.

Why the struggles to attract younger blood to the board? Part of the problem lies with veteran board members who can inadvertently put off youthful board prospects. Self-segregation or old vs. young mentality can be intimidating to potential younger board members—and damaging to the future of the organization.

To address this issue, the board needs to be self-aware of how it currently operates. Consider these ideas:

  • Raise the issue of board succession planning during board self-assessment. If a recruiting matrix or grid shows that the board is skewing older, the board likely needs to recruit younger members as part of its strategic planning for the organization’s future.
  • Ask how your mission affects those under 40. The questions “Do we articulate how what we do everyday impacts the lives of under-40s?” and “Is it clear how our organization serves them and their needs?” are important ones. If you cannot attract younger board members to your mission, you will likely struggle to add youth to your donor and volunteer base as well.
  • Assess your board’s culture. Is it one of equality or are new views “discouraged”? You won’t make inroads with younger members if your board is perceived as elitist or a nonprofit “country club.”
  • To address this, the board must become “welcoming” so that younger members can become engaged more quickly. If board meetings require assumed knowledge of the organization and its history, pair a veteran “board buddy” with a younger member so that the two can interact before and after meetings.

  • Target younger people in each annual nomination process. Use a grid that not only lists the skills, backgrounds and careers the board seeks, but also identifies board members (both current and what you are seeking) by age categories (e.g., 21–29 years, 30–39 years, 40–49 years, 50–59 years and 59 plus).
  • Make the identification of youthful prospects a priority each recruitment cycle. Each period, make an attempt to add two under-40 board members to your board. Stick with it.
  • Take the direct approach when making contact. If the board has made the commitment to “get younger,” be honest with prospects. Everyone should understand right from the start that the board seeks younger members.
  • Be strategic about terms. Don’t insist on lengthy commitments if you want to attract the next generation to board service. A three-year term may not be realistic for someone at a life stage that doesn’t want to be locked in for more than one year.
  • To get around this, stock the board with members serving regular terms, but then make room on the board for special advisors who can be appointed for stints ranging from several months to a year.

    This can be viewed as the same type of board recruitment strategy that uses board committee service as a trial run for a full-fledged board seat. During that time, the organization can assess the new youthful member, while the younger person can determine if a three-year board stint is right for her.

Performance evalaution
3/2/2015 12:00 AM

B&A Editor Jeff Stratton describes a subjective measure on which the executive director should never be evaluated.

Want big board trouble? Invite the board to assess the wrong things about your management of employees on a performance appraisal form.

Too often, the nonprofit executive doesn’t have enough say in the design of the appraisal tool, or doesn’t push back enough when the board presents him with a document that is not designed with the executive director’s needs in mind.

When this happens, the CEO usually ends up being evaluated on subjective measures, not objective and quantifiable ones.

Consider the board that evaluates the executive director’s management of personnel on factors such as “fair” treatment of staff or maintains “positive relationships” with the nonprofit’s staff.

These are not the type of personnel responsibilities that a professional executive should be spending time on. Yes, they might be board “worries” but they don’t belong in your performance appraisal and should be handled by you in other ways.

I recommend a section on the executive’s performance appraisal that is labeled “Management” and evaluates you on personnel management this way:

  • “The executive director is responsible for the hiring, supervision and retention of competent staff, qualified to provide the services at the organization that help meet the mission.”
  • “Does the executive director fill staff vacancies quickly and with minimal disruption to service delivery?”
  • “The executive director adheres to personnel policies.”
  • “Are direct service providers generating the level of services/quality/quantity that the board requires?”
  • “The executive director delegates authority to appropriate staff members.”
  • “The executive director develops and executes sound personnel procedures, practices, evaluations and training for employees.”


Jeff Stratton, Editor


Board chair
2/27/2015 12:00 AM

Find out how to have a strong relationship with the board chair in this article by Board & Administrator Editor Jeff Stratton.

The executive director needs a positive relationship with his or her board chair, because these two individuals must work in tandem for the health of the nonprofit.

An important responsibility of the chair is to serve as a liaison between the full board and the administrator. It takes time and effort on the part of the nonprofit executive to ensure this relationship is a strong one, because you get very little or no say in who becomes the board’s leader. That is the board’s job.

The first step is to make sure that your board chair knows his role. I recommend discussing a board chair job description with your new chair any time officer rotation occurs. Key points to cover in the chair’s job description include:

  • Take charge of board meetings.
    • Begin and end the meeting on time.
    • Facilitate discussion.
    • Keep the board focused on agenda items.
    • Ensure board members have the information necessary to make good decisions.
    • Schedule regular and special meetings of the board.
  • Work as a team with the executive director.
    • Prepare the meeting agenda; plan for any special issues.
    • Meet and communicate regularly with the CEO.
    • Demonstrate support for the executive director.
    • Ensure the board gives the administrator an annual evaluation.
  • Foster teamwork.
    • Know the skills, talents and special interests of all board members.
    • Ensure board members understand their role and responsibilities; participate in the orientation of new board members.
    • Encourage board members to get to know one another.
  • Help set direction for the nonprofit.
    • Ensure that the board engages in strategic planning work when the chair and administrator prepare a board work calendar for the year.
    • Ensure the board regularly reviews and updates its policies.
    • Represent the organization.
    • Appear on behalf of the nonprofit when requested.
    • Speak for the board when required.
    • Maintain visibility and accessibility.

The importance of communication cannot be overemphasized in this relationship. The executive director needs to set up a schedule for regular communication that works for his board chair.

This can be accomplished through a weekly breakfast meeting, for example, or it might be through regular telephone contact. It’s important for the chair to select the means of communication that works for her. Then, do your best to stick to the plan of attack for communication so that it becomes habit for the both of you.

Sincerely, Jeff Stratton, Editor


1/9/2015 12:00 AM

This board evaluation instrument from Board & Administrator Editor Jeff Stratton is a tool the CEO can use to see how well the board is set up to govern effectively.

12/19/2014 12:00 AM

Executive Director Susan Levy assists her board committee chairs by helping them develop a Chart of Work outlining the committee’s responsibilities for the year.

11/7/2014 12:00 AM

These tools from Board & Administrator reader Jan Mancinelli (Petoskey, Mich.) and Editor Jeff Stratton can improve the effectiveness of your board member orientation strategy.


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  • Meet the Editor

    Jeff Stratton

    Jeff Stratton has edited Board & Administrator since 1992. As the Board Doctor, he has advised thousands of executive directors and board members on issues like prevention of
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