Have you ever been asked this question? Let’s say you know someone who is highly respected, has been engaged with your mission for some time, and has shown good judgment in the past. You may even be friends. You have a board seat opening up soon so you figure he/she is probably ready to join (and highly desirable for) your board. However, after extending your offer, you get that question tossed in your face.

Well, after you hide your surprise at being asked this “silly” question, you have to immediately cobble together an answer off the cuff that is at once clever and compelling, and at the same time effective and not insulting or snooty.

How did that go?

Unless you have a succinct, meaningful, and well-rehearsed response on the tip of your tongue, all ready to go, I suspect it went poorly.

This is not the time to stutter, stammer, and do the old soft shoe. You really have to nail it right away…and…on the first try. You get no second chance to answer that question well, especially if this candidate is already being pursued by other nonprofits. You are now in the free agent business and you’ll need to step up if you want to land the stars.

I think asking someone to join your board is one of those questions you just figure the person will say “yes”…or maybe “no”…without your having to justify the value of serving on your board. Nonetheless, when you are trying to land top flight board candidates, the ones who just might take your agency to the next level, you have to be ready for this question with a few “killer” reasons why he/she just cannot not join your board. And, not just reasons why you think it is great to be on your board, but ones others will see as compelling reasons.

Some call these prepared responses “30-second elevator speeches”, and with good reason. You have the key person’s undivided attention, they’ve asked you a simple question, and now the stage is all yours. You may feel like you have to go from your “I’m offering you a big opportunity mindset” to a “please consider joining us” mindset. From bragging, to standing hat-in-hand; from offering something of valuable to being a bit vulnerable personally mindset. Welcome to today’s board recruitment world…

The best way to handle a valid question like this one is to have several well-thought out, well-rehearsed answers ready to go.

When I was in sales in my prior life, I got pretty good at handling objections and tough questions over time by anticipating them, writing out the best responses I could develop and rehearsing them. I never knew which one or ones might pop up and threaten the sale so I had to work to get good at handling each of them well.

I must have looked pretty silly seemingly talking to myself in my car (well before blue tooth) on the way to sales calls…but it worked!

In time, I could handle those tough questions in my sleep, but only because I did my homework in advance.

So, why should someone want to join your agency?

  • To fulfill a community responsibility
  • To give back
  • To strengthen a resume
  • To join an agency impacting its community
  • Because they have good judgment or a necessary skill the board needs
  • We have a great mission and everyone loves us

If you don’t already have some compelling reasons to join your board in your hip pocket you probably should take some time to craft some powerful answers soon. Your current board may even enjoy helping you as an exercise…

How do you handle this question when recruiting board candidates? Please share 1-2 ideas and then share this posting with your contacts to learn what they do…