If you could have any five celebrities on your nonprofit board, who would you pick?
Visualize yourself as chair of the board of a nonprofit you believe in. Maybe it’s a university, an early childhood education center, a food bank, international research institute, or performing arts company. You pick the nonprofit – and the board members!
Focus first on your vision: as board chair, what do you want the organization or institution to accomplish under your leadership? Be specific. Do you want to ensure all first year college students graduate in less than five years with less than $12,000 in student loan debt? As an early childhood education program, are you seeking to enroll 97% of children under five years of age within a two mile radius? Do you need to fully automate the warehouse for the regional food bank? Maybe you want your research institute to bring two new drugs to clinical trial. As a performing arts company, do you seek to increase the number and quality of performances? You determine your vision, and then pick your board.
Make a quick list.
Does it include Sheryl Sandberg, Malala Yousafzai, George Lucas and Melissa Harris Perry? Are Sean Hannity, Whoopi Goldberg, or Mark Zuckerberg on your list? What about Kim Kardashian, Lorretta Lynch, John McCain, and Jon Stewart? Or maybe you are thinking of Serena Williams, Beyonce, Joel Osteen, Ellen DeGeneres and Michelle Obama. You have a universe of celebrities to pick from!
Review your list with an eye to the qualities “your” celebrities possess. Look beyond the obvious “rich and famous.” In fact, don’t consider wealth and fame. Think about what attracts you to each celebrity. Is it their creativity, persistence, sense of justice, risk taking?
Remember to focus on your vision. Which celebrities possess the qualities, experience and connections that can bring your vision to life? Are they accessible? Committed to a personal or public vision that dovetails with yours? Are they passionate about it? Do they have access to people who can bring your vision to life? Do they follow through on their promises? Are they willing to be an advocate? Can they move beyond their “celebrity” to let a cause be the focus? Are they respected? Do they have political connections, influence, a proven track record – are they involved with other nonprofits?
Once you have your top five it’s time to determine how to approach each. Remember, this is your fantasy board – there are no barriers standing in your way. So, what will you say? How will you make your case? What do you want your celebrities to actually do as board members?
Now, back to reality: can you think of people in your community who can help you bring your vision to life? Who will you pursue and why? The choice is yours.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.