Q: I recently was hired to manage a newly-formed nonprofit and have finally convinced the founders to establish a board of directors. Any advice on building an effective board?

A: Building a board and knowing how to select the best board members for your nonprofit is one of the most critical decisions an organization makes and truly can make or break a nonprofit.

Essentially, a board of directors has three primary purposes: development, finances and governance. Board members not only need to understand their legal and fiduciary duties and responsibilities, but they also need to step up to lead and contribute to its culture, strategic focus, effectiveness and financial sustainability, as well as serve as ambassadors and advocates to assist in recruiting other productive board members.

Here are some considerations to begin building your board:

Mission: Develop a mission statement that clearly articulates your purpose, what you hope to achieve and key activities to accomplish it.

By-Laws: Establish by-laws to define the rules, duties and responsibilities of board members and officers, including their election process and terms, meeting guidelines/protocol and frequency, committees, financial requirements and other operating procedures/policies (i.e. Directors Liability Insurance).

Recruiting Members: While selecting directors, keep in mind that one size does not fit all and serious consideration should be given to your nonprofit’s mission and goals to identify your governing body. Don’t fall into the trap of building a board consisting only of “titles” or those who are just looking for a vanity plate and have no intention of contributing their time, talent or connections. Know what you need—is it someone who can leverage dollars or community resources, skills or knowledge, or a combination of the above? Once those needs are identified then you can start an intentional search.

As you begin to cultivate potential new board members, find out why a candidate is passionate about your mission. Are they already supporting the organization as a volunteer, donor or community partner? If not, what is inspiring them to consider it now? Some candidates might be willing to help as a volunteer. Who knows, they could be a potential board member down the road.

Board Member Role & Responsibilities: To ensure an active and engaged board, members need a clear understanding of their role and responsibilities. Consider hosting a board retreat and orientation with a facilitator or asking the board chair of another successful nonprofit to conduct the training. This kind of peer-to-peer learning can be powerful.

Bottom line: Look for directors who are passionate about your cause and willing to exercise due diligence in understanding their role and responsibilities. Most importantly, choose your board chair and officers wisely.

Joan Lee Berkman is a marketing and public relations consultant. if you have a question for Joan, send it to business@townandstyle.com.