Are you actively recruiting new board members? Even if your board today is what you consider the optimum size, your “radar” of prospective directors should always be tuned up. We had a lively Bagel Banter conversation recently about recruitment challenges.
No doubt you’ve been taught to use a board grid to consider diversity and inclusiveness in every sense of the word–age, gender, ethnicity, cultural or faith tradition, background, education, industry, experience, wealth, connections, expertise, and so on. (If you’re not familiar with what a typical grid looks like, here’s a sample).
Of course a board grid is useful because it forces you to see at a glance where your gaps and redundancies are, and therefore can help you define exactly what you need. But it is just one tool in the very important organization-building process of board development. Consider the following:
1 – If your board is large enough, form a board development committee. We sometimes call this group’s mission the ongoing “care and feeding” of the board, i.e., not just responsible for finding and nominating new members but also keeping an eye on other aspects such as participation, networking, social connections, and the quality of your meetings. If your board is small, this can be a two-person committee.
2 – Revisit your organizational vision statement, if you have one, and strategic goals. What kinds of people are going to be needed to get you there? Recruit based not on where you are today but where you want to be in 18-24 months.
3 – Consider the life cycle evolution of your nonprofit: different phases call for different kinds of boards. When you’re just starting out, and staffing is minimal or non-existent, you need a working board. As you’re growing into adolescence, you need board members that bring talent (bankers, attorneys, marketing/PR people) to make up your providing board. As your nonprofit thrives and the board’s engagement in raising money increases, directors are also expected to open doors and make introductions as a connecting board. Finally, the “household names” on the often large boards of well-known, prestigious nonprofits understand that their role is as a high-value fundraising board.
4 – Include both affluence and influence among your recruiting criteria. Remember that different people bring value in different ways. Some people do not represent wealth themselves but may have access to people of wealth. Others are desirable because of the broad-reaching connections that they have.
5 – Design (and stick to!) a step-by-step recruitment process. After initial contact by phone or email, review a resume, then meet for coffee; set a lunch with the board development committee; then invite him/her to observe a board meeting and tour your facility. Ensure opportunities for buy-in on both sides–the choosing goes both ways, after all.
6 – Take care to avoid the temptation to just grab “just another warm body,” a co-worker, a family member, or a friend. And speaking of making choices, some people are not suited or available or willing to be a board member, but because of the value they represent to your organization, they should sit on a “Friends of..” group or an advisory council that meets 1-2 times a year.
7 – Many boards are too homogeneous. For example, decide how important it is for the all board members to have a direct connection/experience to your cause. Is it time to branch out? Conversely, depending on your mission, you should always reserve 1-2 seats for the people who have been helped by your organization and can bring a client perspective.
8 – Make sure that at least some of your board members are seasoned nonprofit board volunteers. You must have a least a few people around your table who know what a high-performing, strong governance board looks like. As for board roles and responsibilities, and appropriate group process, they “get it” and will model that behavior for others.
9 – Prior to election, make sure each nominee understands your organization’s clear expectations (attendance, involvement, and of course personal support).
10 – Following election, consider that engagement should begin immediately. Have your board chair meet one-on-one with new directors if he/she didn’t meet them in the recruiting process. Design engagement plans together with each director based on your job description, their skills and interests, and their networks.
If you enjoy Rich TIPS, you’ll love our informal morning sessions called Bagel Banter!