Recruit Your Way to an Outstanding Board
When I was vice president for a hospital system and president of its foundation, I created a list of potential board members. Over time, I recruited well for talent. One businessperson was recruited because he believed in the mission, was president of his own company, and was an excellent volunteer recruiter and strategic planner.
After the board chair passed away, this businessperson became chair. He brought a pair of the former chair’s shoes to his first meeting as the new chair. He said he could not fill the former chair’s shoes, but he did so with grace and excellence. I had tears in my eyes when his term expired and his final meeting as chair ended. He knew a quality board is a team with a variety of interrelated parts. He is a great recruiting example.
Nonprofits of all sizes must have a quality board of directors to survive and thrive in 2023. The demands, expectations and complexities of operating a nonprofit rely on a host of involved stakeholders to ensure nonprofit success. Look at your current board. As a staff leader, do you really believe your board has the right resolute members that inspire and have passion for the organizational mission?
I believe in the rule of thirds. For every board, a third of the board is firing on all cylinders. A second third of the board shows up and performs on an average scale, at times. The last third should have been sent packing long ago. Why is this the case? It is because not enough attention is given to the recruitment, orientation and continuous nurturing of board members.
I have worked with an array of governing and advisory boards through the years. In many cases, board leadership seeks to fill board openings with any able and willing soul. Little thought is given to the needs of the board as opposed to having what a board perceives as a full board. This type of generalized thinking is wrong and must be changed. I strongly suggest that as you build your nonprofit board, think like a coach.
First, think about the basic responsibilities of a nonprofit board. Here is Boardsource’s breakdown:
- Determine mission/purpose.
- Select the CEO.
- Support the CEO and leadership team.
- Ensure effective planning.
- Monitor and strengthen programs and services.
- Ensure adequate financial resources.
- Protect assets and provide proper financial oversight.
- Build a competent board.
- Ensure legal and ethical integrity.
- Enhance the organization’s public standing.
Once you understand the responsibilities of your board, define the ideal board member that could serve your nonprofit, and how many members are needed. If you want all members to perform well, think like a coach. That leader doesn’t choose bodies for a team. The coach chooses players with specific attributes in mind that board members can bring to the table.
Define the roles you need board members to play knowing that time, talent and treasure is your underlying theme. Develop a written job description and do your research.
Key Board Member Attributes
Years ago, I learned from a coach’s perspective that if I had to recruit 15 board members, my matrix of individual attributes would look something like this.
- Government relations.
- Media relations.
- Service groups.
- Program implementation experience.
- Volunteer recruiting experience.
- Community leadership.
Each board member would have to possess at least one of these proven successful attributes through their background and experience, though approximately two could be generalists.
The board would need to show experience, diversity and seek a balance in a variety of ways. Members would have to take their roles seriously and understand membership is not granted to people who just show up. Members would need to give their experience and background to raise the level of success of the total organization. These members would bring their skill sets and successful experiences that translates into a successful nonprofit business model. Individual attributes equal collective power.
Board Recruitment Process
The board recruitment process should be accomplished with a well-thought-out plan. Use your organizational needs to determine which attributes are most important. Develop a special committee to lead the way in identifying and communicating with potential candidates, and, of course, conducting interviews and selecting new board members.
To recruit your next board member, try looking at your organization’s volunteer pool, donor network, board member recommendations or others involved in your mission. Requesting candidates through your website, social media channels or local community are also great options.
In addition to having the needed skills, it is important to ensure your organization’s board members are excellent. Each board seat is special and important. Recruit board members with the goal of impact in mind. Understand how board members would like to be recruited and treated. Successful people want to serve with others on a board that is perceived as top quality in nature. If you recruit well, over time, as opposed to having to constantly market for outstanding board members, you will begin to be contacted by quality candidates who want to serve on your board. That is the ultimate board recruitment goal you should aspire to and strive to achieve.
The preceding blog was provided by an individual unaffiliated with NonProfit PRO. The views expressed within do not directly reflect the thoughts or opinions of NonProfit PRO.
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.