How Your Organization Benefits From Diverse Skillsets

Whether you’re a brand new organization or an established one recruiting new board members, it’s important to think about the diversity of skillsets on your board.

Program people are often at the heart of what a nonprofit does, and they’re usually the ones most invested in getting the organization started. They’ve been out there helping kids, saving puppies, or doing other hands-on work to help people. And that’s a beautiful thing. But when it comes to board composition, you need more than just program people to sustain an organization long term. 

Running an organization requires a lot of administrative work in the background, especially if you’re a new nonprofit that doesn’t have the budget to hire administrative staff yet. You need to develop a strategic plan, set and track your budget, solicit and manage donations, and market your organization in the community. At the start, those duties get divided among your board members, and you want qualified people who are willing and able to help.

There are five main categories of people you’ll want to recruit for your board to help fulfill the necessary functions of your new or established nonprofit. In many cases, an established nonprofit has hired staff to fill some of these roles, but it’s still helpful to have these diverse skillsets on the board.

Finance

The finance person on your board helps track the money and keeps an eye on the fiscal position of the organization. This is also typically the person you designate as treasurer. They make sure your numbers and reports are right as the organization grows and the budget increases.

Administrative/Organization

This person keeps everything organized and running smoothly for the board, including setting up meetings, sending out agendas, reserving locations, etc. They’re good at communication and keeping things organized. They’re often the board secretary responsible for taking minutes as well. In some cases, this person can double up as your program person if they have the right organizational skills.

Insurance

Regardless of what programming you’re planning to do, you’re going to need insurance of some kind. You need directors and officers insurance to protect your board, and you might need specific liability policies if your organization works with children or with animals. If you host events or participate in parades, you might want a policy that covers any injuries. Having someone on the board who is familiar with insurance can be extremely helpful in making sure you have the right coverage from the beginning.

Communications, marketing, and public relations

This person helps your organization create and execute a strategic marketing plan and helps develop the message you present to the community. That also includes identifying the target audiences in order to reach the right people with your message. Experience with social media, media relations, and websites helps as well. 

Programming

The programming people on your board help keep you focused on the mission and what you’re ultimately trying to accomplish. They have the passion and the driving force to keep the board moving in the right direction to make a difference. While you don’t want a board made up entirely of programming people, you definitely need their voice as part of a diverse board.

Identifying a board with diverse skillsets helps ensure you’re applying best practices throughout the organization’s work while also dividing and conquering all the work that needs to be done. Most startups have a working board, and you don’t want all the work to fall to one person.

Board members are working for free, and burnout is a very real concern for many startup nonprofits. If you don’t have the right board mix and end up with significant burnout, it can sink your organization. By identifying the right mix of board members from the beginning, you can help make the organization sustainable.

Alexandra Bliss