A Guide to Having a Board Recruitment Strategy
According to BoardSource:
“Nothing is more important to the health and sustainability of your organization than getting highly qualified and enthusiastic people to serve on your board. But many organizations struggle to identify the right leaders.”
In the 2015 “Leading with Intent Report,” almost 60% of nonprofit leaders surveyed reported it was difficult to recruit new board members and only 73% of CEOs stated they had the right board members to effectively govern their organizations.
Board recruitment is important as you must find leaders who have the right perspectives that align with your organizational strategies, goals and needs. It is not about recruiting one person. It is about building a diverse group over time that can take your organization to the next level.
It is vital that boards function effectively. In this complex age, the demands on boards are greater than ever. The pandemic and transition of the pandemic throughout the last few months has caused boards to closely examine their operations and focus on their mission. It has also made board leadership look closely at board members.
Are these individuals performing well, and where are there performance gaps? In my long experience in working with a variety of boards, recruitment is so important. You cannot positively achieve success with quality candidates unless you have a well-thought-out and dynamic board recruitment strategy.
There must be certain traits, skills and mindsets that board members need to possess, according to a Capterra blog. You need to evaluate what attributes make for a successful board member as part of your recruitment strategy. Look for these traits: passion for the cause, open-mindedness, responsibility for outcomes, forward thinking, respectful to others, and willingness to learn about the organization they are serving. You also need to make sure board members have communication, fundraising, financial management and teamwork skills.
Before you recruit, make sure you have the following elements in place, as noted by BoardSource: an updated board member job description; board member letter of agreement; established policies regarding term limits, conflicts of interest, process for nomination to the board, and board members’ roles in fundraising.
The strategy for board recruitment should be led by the board and CEO via the governance committee. Each member of the recruitment process has a role to play and collectively needs to evaluate rules and guidelines. They must study the size and complexity of their board, mandatory functions of their board, and what type of board member is needed when there is an opening. Like any athletic team, the better the recruitment strategy, the greater the ultimate result.
Board members must reflect the characteristics needed for success, according to Nonprofit Kinect. Ideally, the recruitment process is an ongoing feature of the governance committee, which should have an ongoing list of potential candidates plus key strategic priorities to formulate their board recruiting plan.
It is important to develop a grid of information that reflects the attributes needed on the board. Examples of attributes to be considered for the grid include age, ethnicity, geography, skill sets, community relations and potential networks with a focus on diversity.
A recruitment task group should review and revise the recruitment profile annually; engage the whole board in identifying candidates; develop a description of board member duties and expectations; send candidates information packets and have them complete an application; interview all viable candidates; and validate candidates’ references.
The best strategy for board recruitment, per Empower Success Corps, is to employ a thorough process by setting goals with a timeframe to achieve these goals, developing talking points so everyone is on the same page, and continuing to review of the process to seek improvements.
Better board engagement requires better board recruiting, according to BoardEffect. The process of board recruitment should align with organizational needs. Tips to improve your strategy in this regard include integrate your strategic plan, inventory your board, revisit your bylaws, clarify expectations, define and execute the recruitment process, onboard effectively, and assess board and board member performance.
Once the strategy for recruitment is set, look for someone passionate about your cause, according to Candid Learning. Some potential areas of focus for referrals include current and former board members; dedicated volunteers; key donors; staff; professionals in areas where you need skills and expertise; among others.
It should be an honor to serve on a nonprofit board of directors. Before your board asks someone to serve on the board, make sure the candidate is a good fit for the position. According to BoardEffect, see what the prospective board member has to offer your board. Find out if the new board member will improve the dynamics of the current board.
Remember, when recruiting a board member, you are looking for someone who can bring qualifications, a collaborative attitude, connections, expertise, skills, and dynamic spirit to your organization. You need a positive influence that will encourage others to join this team.
Empower Success Corps believes board recruitment is best done through this 10-step process:
- Determine organizational needs and priorities that a new board member could fulfill.
- Set goals for potential candidates.
- Review By-Laws to follow legal procedures.
- Assign overall responsibility for recruiting to a special committee.
- Develop talking points that potential board members need to know.
- Identify sources to spread the word about board openings.
- Generate a list of potential candidates and prioritize them.
- Establish a follow-up procedure to reach out to candidates.
- Assign responsibility for contacting best prospects.
- Make the calls to the selected board candidates.
Board recruitment is both important and challenging. Make sure you create a board recruitment strategy, constantly evaluate this strategy and refine it over time. The success of your organization depends, in part, on members of the board. It all begins and ends with recruiting. Never take it for granted and focus on this ongoing process.
One final tip for board recruiting is to personally serve on a major volunteer board in your community. You will learn how others recruit and acquire valuable ideas. You will also interact with other board members and absorb new board recruitment techniques and strategies. Over time, by serving on additional volunteer boards, you will expand your board recruitment network.
Board recruitment is an important element to organizational success. Encourage every constituency in your organizational orbit to play a role in the identification and recruitment process. This will strengthen accountability and lead to an improved board over time, which is especially needed in these dynamic times.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.