Over the past few weeks I've been involved in a few different board assessment and restructuring projects. I always find these projects to be fascinating as they involve both a certain level of art and science. The science part - or lets call it the more technical and process oriented - is the aspect of governance, hard skills exploration and ensuring that you have a solid understanding of what exactly is needed for your particular nonprofit. The "art" aspect is where it gets really interesting. This is where the complexities of psychology, relationships and most importantly commitment to service shows up in all its forms.
When I do these projects, one of the questions that's asked almost every time is: What is the right number of board members for our nonprofit? or some variation on that question. This connects back to what I was talking about the other day when I noted that at times leaders can be too focused on Transactions and not enough on Relationships.
A similar concept comes up here. I'll always suggest focusing on first developing a quality relationship with one board member. Build that first. Help he or she to be as committed as possible to the work of your organization. This is a big contrast to what I occasionally hear from Executive Directors: We're doing a drive to bring on a whole bunch of high-ticket board members. Can you help us find those people?
No, I really can't do that. What I can help an organization do - or will always recommend - is slowing down, identifying good people who have a commitment to serving the communities you serve. Find that first. Work with those people diligently. Thoughtfully and intentionally. The rest (yes, the money, the fundraising etc) will come in time.
How many board members should you have?
Just one. The one you're working with now that you can help to be exemplary for the ones that follow.