Warning! Resumé-Builders Make Lousy Board Members

He envisioned how board service would look on his resumé.


by Dan Busby and John Pearson


It is important to point out to prospective candidates
what is expected of them, including the role of active advocate.
Misleading expectations result in nothing but grief.
To tell you the truth, good people don’t want
to be part of something that requires little of them. [1]

Max De Pree



Sometimes a board prospect is way too eager to join your board.

When you propose marriage on your first date with a board prospect, you'll usually regret it. This board lesson is a good reminder to slow down and take your time.

Al was the CEO of ABC Ministry. He also served on the board of XYZ International. So Al asked his friend Jordan about his interest in serving on the board. One problem: Al failed to mention which board!

Jordan had always been interested in XYZ International. In fact, he envisioned how board service at XYZ would look on his resumé and his LinkedIn profile. (Maybe he even fantasized about chairing the board someday.)

So the entire dating-a-board-prospect process took no longer than a hallway conversation on the way to lunch. Al asked Jordan to serve on the board, and Jordan was pleased to accept.

On the day of his first board meeting (a Saturday), Jordan arrived early at the XYZ International office. He wasn’t that early, but the parking lot was empty. He waited. He waited.

He waited—but still no board members. Not even Al, who had talked vaguely about a short orientation session for new board members prior to the board meeting.

No need to panic, thought Jordan. He called Al, who answered on the first ring.

“Where are you?” Al asked.

“In the parking lot at XYZ,” responded Jordan. “Where is everyone?”

“Oh, no,” laughed Al. “Sorry to confuse you. We always hold ABC Ministry board meetings here at our ABC offices. You're just 30 minutes away, if you hurry. We'll start without you, but we’re looking forward to welcoming you to the board.”

Jordan was stunned. Apparently, he had said yes to serving on the ABC Ministry board, not the XYZ International board. Oh, my. Wishing to avoid public embarrassment, Jordan took a big gulp and soldiered on. He served a three-year term on a ministry board for which he had zero passion.



When recruiting board prospects, go slowly. Over-communicate.
Introduce the prospects to other board members.
Protect your ministry by ensuring that only spiritually and
emotionally mature people are invited to be stewards of your organization.

  Board Action Steps:

  1. Read: Order the 91-page gem, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board by Max De Pree,[2] for your board, and invite a board member to highlight an insight from it at every meeting.

  2. View: Screen the 13-minute video from the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members and distribute the Board Member Read-and-Engage Viewing Guide[3] at your next board meeting or nominating committee meeting.

  3. Review: Does your board policy require that nominees are interviewed by two or more board members?



Lord, forgive us for being slot fillers
when You want us to be Kingdom builders.
As we consider board nominees, forgive our lame excuses for second-rate work:
lack of time, convenience, procrastination, and half-heartedness.
Instead, lead us to Your candidates for the board.  Amen.




[1] Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001), 19-20.

[2] Ibid. For an index to 30 short blogs by John Pearson, based on Max De Pree’s book, Called to Serve, visit https://ecfagovernance.blogspot.com/2017/1/called-to-serve-no-board-detail-is-too.html.

[3] ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members—Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation, Engagement (Winchester, VA: ECFAPress, 2012).


From More Lessons From the Nonprofit Boardroom: Effectiveness, Excellence, Elephants!, 2019, www.ECFA.org/KnowledgeCenter.

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.