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How to Recruit Board Members?


Attracting and engaging Board members should involve just as much art and science as you’d invest when recruiting your best fit paid employees!  Yet I see a number of Boards recruit members with little thought as to what expertise they offer, how they’ll add measurable value and/or how they’ll fit the culture of a particular organization.

A process could include, but is not limited to:

  • Define your Board model on the operational-governance spectrum;  prospects want to know how hands on or strategic they’ll be.
  • Profile your ideal Board member;  prospects want to know what Knowledge, Skills and Experience you need and want, e.g. how actively involved will they be in Fund Development?
  • Keep the Role and Responsibilities document for Board members up to date;  prospects want to know their full scope and autonomy.
  • Summarize the role of any sub-Committees of your Board;  prospects want to know their total time commitment each month beyond attending a meeting.
  • Lay out clear Expectations for all Board members;  prospects want to know what you expect from each person and the group.
  • Indicate measurable Outcomes for the Board;  prospects want to know how they’ll be held accountable, both individually and collectively.
  • Recruit new Board members as strategically as you would paid staff using an administratively fair process…which includes comprehensive reference checks.  For example, what are the actual and perceived risks to your image and brand when you consider a prospect who has been disciplined by his or her professional association?  What about one who is in the same business as you are and may be competing for similar funding and/or clients?
  • Orient or On-Board new Board members;  prospects want to be positioned for  success.
  • Provide on-going Training and Development to all Board members;  information reinforces confidence and competence.
  • Evaluate Performance;  be willing to tackle concerns or issues on a timely basis.
  • Ensure that Turnover is paced so you retain intellectual capital long enough to realize a reasonable return on investment while introducing an infusion of fresh new ideas;  be clear about the term of the initial appointment (e.g. 2-3 years) and how many extensions are possible (e.g. 1 extension for a maximum of 4-6 years)
  • Ensure a Feedback mechanism for all Board members;  everyone needs and wants to be heard.
  • Recognize what each person contributes to your organization’s success;  ensure that the recognition will be meaningful for and tailored to each individual.

An excellent plain language reference document is the Certified General Accountants of Ontario’s “Grassroots Governance:  governance and the non-profit sector” which is available on-line.

You may meet a potential new Board member at a cocktail party but invest time in due diligence to confirm it’s the best fit for everyone.  That means more than a handshake over a glass of wine!