Board Development in Non-Profit Organizations: Recruiting the Right Talent for Your Board of Directors
By Rick Kiel
Recruiting New Members is Key to Board Effectiveness
One of the most important roles of a non-profit board of directors is to attract and retain qualified people who can effectively meet the organization's needs. Turnover in board members for a variety of reasons results in an ongoing need to bring in new membership. If approached strategically, recruitment of board members can make a significant contribution to sustaining or reviving any non-profit board.
To fulfill this role, the board must do the following:
This article summarizes various practices Win-Win has used to help clients develop and implement successful board development processes.
Do Board Members Bring the Three W's?
The first step to board recruitment is to define what is needed in new members. In one board development committee discussion we facilitated, a seasoned committee member announced, "We need people who can deliver at least one of the three W's: wealth, wisdom, or work. Wealth is the ability to contribute and raise funds to support our mission. Wisdom is the knowledge, experience, and skills needed to fulfill the governance function of the board. And work is the willingness, time, and talent to get the work of the board done on behalf of the organization." This is one simple and clever way to summarize some major areas of contributions to be expected of current and potential board members.
More possible criteria are included in the following sample list of desired qualities for new board members:
You will want to work with your board to decide on what criteria are most critical for your board development process.
What Does Your Board Need?
After defining the qualities you want on your board, you are ready to assess your current board. What are the strengths of your current board members and what is their tenure and the timing of the end of their terms? How do they rate compared to the desired qualities you have identified? With the current board assessment done and the qualities of desired board members defined, you can then perform a gap analysis to see where to focus board recruitment efforts. The next step is to organize a board recruitment committee or mobilize the existing board development committee.
The Board Development Committee
Board member recruitment is typically taken on by a board development committee, which often consists of the past board chair and one or more other board members, and can be enhanced by key outside stakeholders who are close to your organization and have an extensive network outside the organization.
Working with the Board to Get Key Decisions Made
Engaging the board in the process is essential for alignment and support. For example, the board needs to decide:
When priority candidates are identified, the board development committee is charged with contacting these candidates to gauge their interest in serving on the board. These discussions often include:
At the end of this process, the committee will meet again to review feedback from candidates and finalize profiles of candidates to be presented. In the meantime, updates will be shared via phone and e-mail.
Outcomes and Timing
The goal of the committee's process to this point is to present a slate of recommended candidates for board approval at the board meeting preceding the beginning of the new terms. Results of the board development committee's work include:
Moving Forward with Your Enhanced Board
Timely and well-planned follow through is important after board decisions are made. This may include the following actions:
Board Development in Non-Profit Organizations: Recruiting the Right Talent for your Board of Directors
"Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it's when you've had everything to do, and you've done it."
-- Margaret Thatcher