Should You Try Get “Big Names” and “Big Pockets” on Boards?

Sections of this topic

    What About “Big Names”?

    Many Board members believe that adding a very prominent person to the Board will bring great prestige and credibility to the Board. They believe that funders and other organizations will take those Boards much more seriously. Often, that’s a big mistake.

    Rarely do those famous people ever show up to the Board meetings. I know of several cases where the “big names” didn’t even know they were on the Boards – the organizations had simply put their names on the lists of Board members!

    Nonprofits often believe that big names will impress funders to contribute to the organizations. Funders are much smarter than that. Nonprofits can severely damage their credibility when they can’t prove that the big names were really on the Boards in the first place.

    What About “Big Pockets”?

    Nonprofits also often believe that “big pockets” (rich people) are more likely to donate to the organization if those people are also on the Board. Usually, the last thing they want is to be burdened with is the responsibility of attending Board meetings. Many times, they’d rather write a check to the nonprofit instead!

    You’re far better off to find Board members who actively participate in Board meetings and committees, and who will help find “big pockets.”


    Would you ever hire an employee because he was very popular (a big name) and then expect him/her to never show up for work? Would you ever donate to a nonprofit if that nonprofit also asked you (a big pocket) to come to regular Board meetings?

    A dear friend of mine is a highly respected CEO. She said that one of her greatest moments of learning was when she quit acting like she was lucky to even have Board members attend a meeting. Instead, she realized that her organization deserved to have active Board members.

    Don’t seek to find prominent or rich people to put on your Board. Instead, find people with passion for the mission and also the time and energy to be active on your Board. They will ultimately bring credibility and funding to your Board through their good work on the Board.

    What do you think?

    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
    Read my weekly blogs: Boards, Consulting and OD, Nonprofits and Strategic Planning.