Eighteen questions to ask prospective board members

At the heart of good governance, reminds Virginia Esposito of the National Center for Family Philanthropy, is “building the board your foundation deserves.” That’s the spirit in which you should approach the selection of your first board. Don’t take shortcuts in assessing possible candidates.

Here are 18 questions that can help: 

1. What do you know about this foundation (trust, donor-advised fund, etc.)?

2. How does our mission resonate with you?

3. Have you had prior board experiences? Tell me about them.

4. Have you had any experience related to our mission? 

5. How do you see your responsibilities as a foundation board member?

6. What role does the board play in protecting donor intent?

7. How do you see the role of a living donor at the foundation?

8. What personal/professional/intellectual qualities do you think will make a great board member for this foundation?

9. What role do you think you would play on the board?

10. How do you typically go about making decisions in a group setting?

11. How do you think a trustee should go about questioning conventional wisdom or what appears to be the majority opinion?

12. What has given you the most pleasure in your personal giving?

13. How do you choose among competing philanthropic interests?

14. How do you see philanthropy solving the problems this foundation is trying to address?

15. What impact do you think this philanthropy can have?

16. What challenges do you think we are facing?

17. Will you be able to contribute the necessary amount of time to this endeavor?

18. Do you have any concerns about joining the board?