Thought Leadership

Board Success: focus on recruitment

Recruit to develop a well functioning and cohesive board united in its commitment and duty to the organization. Sounds too good to be true?
It’s really not. 

Board development is challenging. How do you motivate a group of long-term and, most likely, high net worth donors to volunteer their time and resources, focus on their fiduciary duty, promote your mission and support the executive director? Invest in them! A common mistake is to assume board members don’t need to be cultivated; but they do. Board members wear multiple hats – they are your donor, ambassador, fundraiser, board member and community member. As such, and as with all your stakeholders, they too need to be cultivated, recognized, celebrated and nurtured.

The first step to developing a successful board begins before you even welcome a new board member to the organization. 

  • Examine everyone you come across as a prospective board member. Take stock of their skills based on your board recruitment matrix (see below). Every volunteer, donor, sponsor, staff member is a potential board member. 
  • Draft a detailed skills matrix to identify the skills gaps on your board. Every potential board member you interview should be part of your skills matrix. This will help you decide if this person’s skills are a match for your board. Yes, this is the place where you address diversity!
  • Cultivate prospective board members by engaging them. Invite them to events, ask them to participate in surveys and polls, offer them a spot in community collaborative events. As you get to know them and you think there is a spot on a board committee, invite them  to join a board committee that matches their skills. Train your existing board members to assess them for cultural and skills fit to be an effective board member. The longer you engage with them, the better your chances are of identifying if they are right for your board.

The second step is critical to establish best practices for your recruitment process. Take time to establish the following:

  • Establish a search committee and nomination process. Before you begin the process, set up a search committee and agree on the recruitment process – which board members are on the committee, oversee the committee, conduct the interviews. This will ensure transparency and fairness that candidates are treated equally, which avoids awkward situations where a current board member recommends a friend, or something similar.
  • Implement a robust interview process – this is your chance to have a candid conversation about the needs of the organization, expectations of a board member (time commitment, committee involvement, fundraising, oversight, etc.) and the recruitment process. Ask questions, seek answers, and make sure both parties are aligned.
  • Ensure board participation, by asking your search and nomination committee to share their process and decision making guidelines to the entire board.  These key steps will help ensure you are putting together a board that is right for your organizational needs and one that is united in its efforts to support the organization.

The board is a critical part of an organization and ensuring its success can sometimes be elusive. Board success has many moving parts. Recruitment is one of them.

Santushi Kuruppu, June 2020