Posted May 30, 2012 by Ben Mohler
When interviewing board members for service, ask what they have read or are reading related to board leadership, governance, fundraising, or volunteerism.
According to the old adage, "you are what you eat." I believe that the same holds true for what we read.
When ever I am asked to serve on a search committee or take part in interview sessions with job candidates I often include a question about reading habits, preferences, or guilty pleasures. Sometimes I ask if they have a favorite author or magazine, what book they most recently finished or what is on their nightstand. There really is no right or wrong answer. What their answer does is tell a lot about who they are and what they value.
I believe that nonprofit organizations should be selective in who they tap for board service and make the process competitive. To this end I strongly believe that nonprofits should interview potential board members.
While interviewing candidates for board service, try including a question that seeks to gain insight on what they have read or are reading with regards to board service, governance, fundraising, or volunteerism. A conversation of this nature may illuminate gaps in understanding or it may uncover a potential resource for the organization's current board members.
If the former is true, it may prompt you to make reading recommendations for the potential board member to seek out before being considered for board service placement. If it is the latter, you may have a new board member than can champion best practice, excellence, ethics, governance, or any number of issues relevant for transforming the culture of your existing board or taking them to the next level.
If you are limited in your ability to add new board members, but want to encourage a culture that seeks out authoritative sources to help inform the board governance role, you may want to consider some other options. Give a board member an article, blog post, or book (either physically, or on loan through an e-reader). Ask them to summarize the text at a future meeting. If you are looking for ideas for potential resources try the e-book samplers from Wiley/Jossey-Bass linked below.
NTEN 2012 Free e-Book Sampler - Includes chapters from four books on technology and the non-profit sector including - 101 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits: Melanie Mathos and Chad Norman, Building Nonprofit Capacity: John Brothers and Anne Sherman, Everyone Leads: Paul Schmitz, The Future of Nonprofits: David Neff and Randal Moss
AFP 2012 Conference e-Book Sampler - Includes chapters from recent additions to the AFP/Wiley Fund Development Series including - Fundraising and the Next Generation: Emily Davis, A Fundraising Guide for Nonprofit Board Members: Julia Walker, An Executive’s Guide to Fundraising Operations: Christopher Cannon, Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding: Jocelyne Daw and Carol Cone, The Nonprofit Development Companion: Brydon DeWitt, and Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing: Michael Rosen