The 2 Types of Board Members Every Philanthropic Venture Needs



When leading profit-driven startups, supporting the backbreaking bottom line of an enterprise is a mighty task. And for philanthropic startups, striking the right balance between passion and profit is especially cumbersome. After all, social startups must value their money as much as their mission to survive.

Any great organization starts with its people, and board members can be powerful influencers of a social startup’s image and success. As an entrepreneur, your job is to bring people into your cause as employees, advisors, investors, and board members. You’re not just directing people: you’re building an organization that serves a purpose much greater than its individuals. But to stay afloat, you can’t let the bottom line go unchecked.

To shape an organization that prioritizes both social and financial responsibilities, recruit these two types of people for your advisory board dream team:

  • The Business-Minded Member

Business intelligence is a must for any advisory board. It tells the world that the business side of your venture is strictly about business and concerned with the bottom line. By instilling this confidence in the public, you’re exposing your venture to greater investment opportunities. Let’s face it: Underneath your mission statement and all of the social goodness it entails lurks the bottom line, or the pulse of your venture.

  • The Passion-Driven Humanitarian

To counterbalance the profit-minded members of your board, recruit those who are passionate about your mission. These board members are the faces of your social venture — the ones who add diversity to your network. They have an uncompromising vision for the mission and will keep your message fresh and strong.

3 Tips for Building Your All-Star Advisory Board

Understanding the people you need to help guide your social venture is only the first step. When recruiting board members, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  1. Be deliberate. Mission-based startups are exciting because they have specific causes. Pairing your social startup with board members who align with your mission can have a powerful effect. But you can’t get caught up in securing bold-faced names purely for notoriety; it will create confusion and brand misalignment. Deliberately target potential board members who will push your business forward.

When Sasha Chanoff, founder and executive director of RefugePoint, successfully recruited Julia Taft, former director of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, to his advisory board, money was tight. But having the support of a powerful name helped generate more attention and funding.

  1. Don’t settle. Finding the right people takes tenacity. When enlisting board members for my social venture, I knew I wanted Kevin Hill, former CEO of Oxford Health Plans, on my team. I convinced him to invest, and he was generous with his advice, but at first, he wasn’t prepared to assume the risk of joining the board. I focused on demonstrating to him that BeneStream was a great company with huge potential, and he recently offered to become a board member.
  1. Demand participation. Every board member should ultimately help run your business. If someone isn’t working toward your goal, consider letting him go. You are pouring your life into a venture you find important. Don’t back off from the notion that it has incredible value. Request the same commitment from your advisors and board members that you expect of other team members. Earn their respect, and you’ll boost the value of your enterprise.

Most startups will undoubtedly fail. But surrounding yourself with exceptional employees and board members will vastly improve your company’s chances of seeing another day.

Recruiting the right individuals to represent the many needs of a social venture is an art born from trial and error. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Find great supporters, cultivate them, and put them to work. As long you have the talent, drive, and business savvy to support your mission, you’ll stand out as a social force to be reckoned with.

Image credit: CC by Steve Jurvetson

About the author: Benjamin Geyerhahn

Benjamin Geyerhahn is an experienced entrepreneur, healthcare policy expert, and member of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Health Benefit Exchange Regional Advisory Committee. He is the founder and CEO of BeneStream, which uses a combination of technology and a multilingual call center to guide employers and employees through the Medicaid enrollment process.

You are seconds away from signing up for the hottest list in New York Tech!

Join the millions and keep up with the stories shaping entrepreneurship. Sign up today.