A Guide to Recruiting Board Members
BoardStrong depends on local nonprofit communities to post updated listings on our platform. If you’re in search of board members but you’re not sure where to start, read the below guide for tips on recruiting the right people for your organization.
Part 1: Identifying Board Gaps and Qualities of New Board Members
In joining BoardStrong, your organization has made a decision to attempt a new board recruitment strategy. You have likely designated a group of directors, typically a nominating or governance committee, to take the lead in identifying, assessing and proposing candidates. If this group is clear about recruitment objectives, skip to Part 2. But, if not, here are some questions to ask in creating board position descriptions for new candidates:
- Would more demographic, political, or professional diversity be helpful on your board; what type and why? How will you welcome participation of new members whose backgrounds and perspectives may differ from those of current directors?
- What types of leadership skills does your board need? For example, are you looking for candidates who have been involved in organizational start-ups or turnarounds? Would skills in community organizing, consensus-building or strategy be valuable?
- How high a priority is access to financial or other resources at this time and how will your organization communicate about this topic to candidates? Are you willing to bring on new or younger candidates who may not have access to financial resources now but may develop this as they advance in their careers?
Part 2: Identifying and Assessing Candidates
Post an Opportunity for Board Service on BoardStrong and Search Our database Periodically for New Candidates
Once you have defined your board’s needs, post an opportunity to our online community. You will be automatically matched with candidates who suit your organizaiton’s needs based on their interest, skill set and experience -or you browse candidates directly from the database.
The chief executive and at least one member of the nominating or governance committee, should meet with each prospective board member to learn more about the individual’s personal qualities and professional experiences. Here are some questions you may consider asking:
- What prompted your interest in joining the board of a nonprofit?
- What interests you most about our organization?
- Tell us about some of the community service experiences you have had that have been most meaningful.
- What skills and perspectives would you see yourself contributing as a part of our board?
- How much time do you have to be involved with our organization and do you anticipate changes to your availability?
- Do you have any concerns about joining a board and if so, what are they?
If the board has specific fundraising or other requirements, ask the candidate about meeting them.
Educate Candidates about Your Organization
Each candidate should have a chance to see the organization’s “programs in action” which may involve seeing a class or performance, participating in an event, reading material from a campaign, or some other activity. We suggest candidates review material on your website and social media. They may access your 990 through Guidestar.org. In addition, if you are seriously considering a candidate, it will be helpful to show them some of the following documents:
- Strategic Plan or plan summary — This will help the candidate learn about the organization, its environment and major plans.
- Audits or audit letters — This will help the candidate learn about the organization’s financial condition.
- Annual Report — If it is already on your website, there is no need to provide it; smaller and newer organizations might not have annual reports.
- By-Laws — These will provide basic information about board composition, operations and structure.
- Board Policies and Requirements — Board Job Descriptions; Conflict of Interest, Whistleblower, Give or Get – These documents clarify essential responsibilities.
- Board Calendar, including Meeting Location and Times
Part 3. Welcoming New Members
When you are ready to extend an offer to a candidate, make sure that there is clarity about all responsibilities. Some organizations elect directors once per year and others have more flexibility. You should let candidates know what to expect. You may also meet candidates whom you believe are not yet ready for your board. If you do want to involve these individuals in your organization, consider whether there are other options. Many candidates are interested in committees and associates groups, so consider these activities when appropriate. And remember, as noted above, if there is not a good fit, there is no obligation to extend an offer of any type. In this case, please let a candidate know that you will not be moving forward and provide feedback that you think will be helpful.
Provide a Comprehensive Orientation
Your new board members will not be successful without a thoughtful orientation process. To this end, prepare a board manual (hard copy or electronic) with key documents, including the items we list above, minutes of recent board meetings, program summaries and evaluations, descriptions of key fundraising events, etc. The Boardstrong Resource Library has several fact sheets related to orientation manuals and procedures. Another suggestion is a board mentorship where new board members are paired with more experienced directors for guidance. If you are bringing on several new directors at once, hold a formal orientation session and consider a social opportunity for them. This will help new members bond with each other and some long time members and smooth the pathway to getting involved.
BoardSource, Board Matrix Template. Available at http://www.boardsource.org
BoardSource, Recruiting Board Members. Available at http://www.boardsource.org
Leadership Niagara, Candidate Evaluation Form, 9/18/14.
MAP For Nonprofits, Ten Dimensions that Shape Your Board. Available at
NYC Nonprofit Assistance, Capacity Building Resource Guide for Nonprofit Partners,
Candidate Interview Questions, Recruitment Procedures and Board Handbook
Contents. Available at http://www.nycservice.gov