Dear board volunteers . . . please do a better job with your recruitment efforts

mardi gras mask12DonorDreams blog is honored to be hosting the May 2013 Nonprofit Blog Carnival. The theme this month is “Dear board volunteer . . .” and the idea is “If you could write an anonymous letter to a nonprofit board about something they do that drives you crazy, what would that letter look like and what suggested solutions would you include?” If you are a blogger and would like more information on how to participate and submit a post for consideration, please click here to learn more.

I wanted to expand the Nonprofit Blog Carnival concept in May. So, I reached out to real non-profit people and asked them to also write an anonymous letter to their board volunteers. These folks are executive directors, fundraising professionals, board members, donors, community volunteers, consultants and front line staff. I promised everyone anonymity in exchange for their submissions.

We will officially celebrate May’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this real look at real issues that our community deals with on a daily basis.

Here is today’s letter:

Dear Board Volunteers,

Why ME?

After years of on again, off again volunteer work in the community, I was recently asked by a local not-for-profit to be a part of their resource development committee.  Planning, strategizing and fundraising have always been kind of a natural for me, so I eagerly accepted the challenge.  And what a challenge it turns out to be…

Getting involved with the organization was enlightening.  I met a lot of great people who had many terrific ideas.  There seemed to be an early interest from the RD committee in meeting and discussing these ideas, although it became readily apparent that the follow through was a bit lacking.  It also became apparent to me that there are several types of people, or bees, that flock to the not-for-profits:  Executive bees, Worker Bees, and Busy bees.

Now some explanation: The Executive bees, or E-bees are the the group of power brokers that get involved with the not-for-profits.  These are people in the community that have influence, wield formal authority, and are typically respected by their peers and fellow board members.  The E-bees guide or drive policy, typically bring some fundraising ability to the table, but aren’t going necessarily roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.  They definitely bring value to a not-for-profit.

So, the Worker bees, or W-bees, are still respected by their peers, this is the group that will roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.  Want to be able to spot a W-bee in a crowd?  It’s not too tough.  Go to the next big event.  Look for the board members that are setting chairs or moving tables.  Take a picture of the board member walking around selling the raffle tickets at the event. I’ll bet that you just found yourself a Worker bee.  Don’t worry, these are helpful bees to have around, in of course the right mix.

Now the Busy bee, or B-bees, are are interesting creatures, and they can be a little harder to identify.  B-bees, like the name implies, kind of roll around and oftentimes wind up in the mix with the E-bees and W-bees.  Often, they feel that they may have influence when in fact they have very little.  They may talk a good game, but their lack of follow through and lack of willingness to commit doesn’t make them a very good Worker bee.  B-bees like the activity found in the rest of the swarm but aren’t necessarily going to bring much to the table.  It has been my experience that Busy bees are responsible for the flurry of inactivity that occurs in not-for-profits.  Be careful when dealing with a Busy bee, because like all bees, they still have stingers.  And because of their lack of focus on the real issues at hand, they are always slightly more inclined to use those stingers than the E-bees or W-bees.  These bees often bring little to the hive and can be more bother than they are worth

OK, so why all the bee analogies?  Simple.  In order for not-for-profits to be successful, here has to be a healthy synergy with a good mix of the right type of volunteers. People all have to work together.  And there has to be the right mix of people to make all of that happen.  Like a beehive. Ultimately, of course, it the responsibility of the Board and the Executive Director to ensure that brought proper board development brings the right mix of volunteers together.

Recently, one of the current board members met with me and explained that there had been some transition, and that there several vacancies on the board.  He was very excited to meet with me, and after only a few short minutes of conversation asked me “would you like to be on the board?

I smiled and asked if he was serious. I didn’t ask because because I was flattered by the offer, but because I was so taken back by the way he asked me.  This was a Worker bee, who is very involved, very well intended, but had put no thought into why he asked me.  

When I asked him why he was so interested in recruiting me he said that it was because: 1) he liked me and 2) he liked some of the work I had done on the resource development committee.  I cringed.  This, I thought, is the exact reason that the board is in the trouble that it is in.

Boards and execs must make board development a number one priority.  There has to be a defined methodology to volunteer recruitment, and it has to have a basis beyond choosing friends and picking the “nice guys”.  

Pick a strategy and pursue it.  

How many E-bees should your board have?  How many W-bees does the board need?  Fundraising should be a key component to choosing board members. If prospects can’t fundraise, they may be better served working the beverage cart at the next golf outing.  How will you deal with the Busy bees?  Does your board have the stomach to truly self-evaluate, and then ask its members annually why they are there?  If not, be prepared for a hive full of Busy bees, and be willing to accept the problems that B-bees bring.

When new members are solicited, tell them why they were chosen. It may be their ability to raise money, their position in he community, or their exceptional skills as a Worker bee.  By identifying and sharing their desirable traits, you’ll make the board and volunteer recruitment process much easier.  Volunteers and board members will have a defined sense of purpose.

Most importantly, you’ll never put a volunteer in the position of asking themselves “Dear Board, why ME?”

The Honey Bear of Volunteers

honey bearIf you have some advice for the author of our anonymous letter, please share it in the comment box at the bottom of this post in a respectful manner.  If you want to submit an anonymous letter for consideration this month, please email it to me at the address in your signature block below.If you are a blogger looking to participate in this month’s Nonprofit Blog Carnival and want to learn more, then please click here.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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