YNPN Chicago is currently on-boarding 14 new board members. Our first official board meeting together is tonight but MANY calories have already been burned to ensure that we have the right people (and the right infrastructure) for a successful first year. We’re extremely excited about the board we have in place and want to share a few of the strategies that helped get us here.
Recruit board members from existing committees
Joining a board should be a thoughtful choice, not something that’s done on a whim. I spent a year on the technology committee (now the online media committee) before applying for the board. That time helped me to understand the organization and make an informed decision to take my involvement to the next level. It also gave the board a chance to get to know me. It’s similar to my theory on dating: You really want to spend all four seasons with someone before you make a firm commitment about your future together.
We use a formal interview process. We accept applications for board service annually and require applicants to participate in an in-person interview (or video conference). Personalities matter and spending just 15 minutes with someone may tell you everything you need to know. We are lucky enough to be in a position where we can be very selective in choosing our board members; this year especially, we had so many amazing applicants apply for the slots we had available.
We use a two-tiered interview process. Applicants meet with two separate committees comprised of current and ex-officio board members. The first committee focuses their questions on the applicant’s qualifications (e.g., if they applied for a Fundraising Co-Chair position, what experience and successes can they share about their past/current fundraising initiatives?). The second committee focuses on our organization and the nonprofit sector as a whole. Are the applicants passionate about the work we/they
are doing? Are they informed and aware of the current nonprofit landscape? Do they have ideas and a clear vision for the future?
Information and Tone
The goal of our orientation is to provide new members with a background and context for their upcoming board service. There is SO much information to impart and trying to jam it all into one session would just be overwhelming. We discussed the board structure, expectations, and history. We also gave a basic introduction to our technology infrastructure.
The orientation is a great opportunity to leverage the talents of your ex-officio board members. These former board members can give a firsthand account of what life is really like on the board and provide an invaluable connection to the history of the organization. They can also provide AMAZING spaces to host, as we saw this year when Safiyah Jackson volunteered the executive board room of the Shedd Aquarium, and also provided background on our work in diversity and inclusion. First impressions matter and this gave us a unique, shared memory to carry forward. Kathy Chan and Yesenia Sotela also made the time to participate that morning, providing a clear view into the culture and creation of our chapter and our relationship to YNPN National.
MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding)
It’s necessary to ask board members to be specific about what they want to get out of their board service. We have board members complete a MOU containing their personal and professional goals for the year. This is extremely helpful when we conduct our mid-year check-in calls. It provides a framework for the conversation and helps ensure people are getting as much out of their service as they are putting in.
All of these strategies have helped us put together an incredible YNPN Chicago Board of Directors – stay tuned for a stellar year!
Aaron House, Executive Co-Chair, YNPN Chicago, is a long time resident of Chicago, currently working as the Training Manager at the University of Chicago’s central office URA (University Research Administration). He believes in the power of words and clear communication.