Your board members are integral to carrying out every facet of your mission. They are ambassadors, fundraisers and budgeters, as well as visionaries of your charitable goals. While board members often appear to play a quiet role, they’re keeping the wheels in motion. As soon as a board member joins the team, he or she is accepting the challenge of long-term investment in a cause. Not only will they be responsible for raising funds and awareness, but they’ll need to continually learn about your mission and how it might evolve over time, according to The National Council of Nonprofits.

In addition to sustaining a passion for your charitable work, board members must also create plans for protecting assets and using resources wisely. When you ask someone to join your nonprofit board, you’re asking for a full commitment to donor engagement, financial management and outreach – and all this work is unpaid. For this reason, you need to spend a good deal of time recruiting the right person for the job – someone who looks forward to sustaining long-term energy and engagement in a noble cause. You’ll also want your document management software at the ready, so you can organize your notes.

Finding the right person

Cultivating new board members is no small effort, but the work is well worth the reward of a smoothly running organization. Be prepared to comb through your business management software and make a list of potential candidates. It’s likely you’re already prepared to conduct rounds of interviews. But how do you know whether those who give good impressions will provide lasting support to your charitable goals?

The answer is that you won’t know until you take some time to find out. Get to know your individual prospects before appointing anyone to the board, said Non Profit Hub. It’s not enough to look at resumes or notes. Knowing prospects means developing close relationships with each and every potential candidate. First and foremost, you want to know if you’ll be able to work well with them in person. That’s the kind of thing that’s most evident in face-to-face conversations. Essentially, you can think of recruitment as a courting process.

Knowing your needs

From your end, it’s important not to expect a prospective member to know everything about the way nonprofit boards run. You can help them develop skills and navigate the particulars of your organization, but you can’t impart a sense of commitment or passion. An individual needs both those things before you even think about appointing them to the board.

It can be helpful to ask prospects to cut their teeth on a committee or task force prior to broaching the possibility of board membership. This strategy helps you get a read on an individual’s abilities and engagement with the cause. It also helps prospects evaluate their own strengths, limitations and interests with regard to working long term for your organization.

Patience is key

If this process sounds time-consuming, it is. But it won’t be stressful if you begin your courting process well before your current board’s term comes to a close. If you’re starting from scratch, don’t get so caught up in urgency that you settle for a board with limited potential to strengthen your mission. Recruiting the right board members isn’t just a matter of finding passion and personalities that jive with your nonprofit’s culture. You also need to have a realistic understanding of the skills your board needs most. If you want to find a budget aficionado for your board, you don’t need to solicit only financial experts. It’s perfectly find to recruit someone whose background isn’t an exact fit, as long as you know the individual is capable of learning the proper budgeting skills. Above all, passion and commitment are the first qualities you’re looking for in a potential board member.

No one wants a new board member to flounder in the first few weeks. If you have a strong support system in place – and plan to train your new recruits – this shouldn’t happen. Before anyone says yes to the job, make sure you’ve been forthright about the exact tasks they’re agreeing to. You should provide a written set of expectations and job details, since you’re likely asking for a 5- to 10-year commitment. Surprises will set everyone  back.

Set up for success

Once someone accepts an appointment to your board, help them find their footing right away. A well-planned orientation shows that you value them, and that you’re enthusiastic about working with them over the next several years. Introduce them to other board members and give them everything they need to start on solid ground, such as written board member agreements, financial statements, policies and calendars. Most of all, remember to stay connected. If you prioritize engagement, others will follow suit.