Recruiting Board Members in the Nonprofit Sector

Acquisition takes more time, energy and money than retention. Whether the acquisition is for customers, donors, or board members, this is a fact for both the for profit and nonprofit sectors. Unfortunately, sometimes board members leave, and their seats can’t stay empty forever.

Recruiting board members can be done one of two ways: the easy way or the hard way. The easy way is how many of us find ourselves with boards composed of word-of-mouth recommendations that aren’t working to the best of their ability. The hard way–my preferred path–takes more time and effort but results in a more harmonious board.

But where do you start?

Posting board openings online like you would open job positions is the perfect way to start the recruitment process.

Because we live in a digital world, posting positions online may not seem innovative, and I’d agree with you! But let me remind you of what I mentioned in the introduction. How many boards are solely composed of people who were recommended by the same person? Or members who were recommended by someone who was recommended by someone who was recommended by someone?

You see where I’m going here.

Referrals will always have a place in any professional setting, but a diverse board makes for an effective board. One way to improve board diversity is to step outside your internal networks and get some new blood flowing in. However, posting board openings on Linkedin and your nonprofit’s website isn’t enough. Use community boards, networking forums and neighborhood associations to spread the word. Find new resources and make the best use of them.

Speaking of resources, I’m a big believer in using applications with board candidates.

Again, often we rely on personal recommendations in the nonprofit sector. If your organization doesn’t use an application, it’s time to start developing one. Board applications help you narrow down the candidate pool, increase your chances of selecting a board member who can best serve the community and who meets the nonprofit’s current needs.

Your application should include a copy of the job description, member expectations (including annual financial contributions), desired skills, and questions designed to assess the applicant’s qualifications. If you’re not sure which questions to include in the application, ask your staff and board.

Staff and board input during board recruitment in the nonprofit sector serves two purposes:

(1) Using stakeholders’ opinions to more deeply understand what they need from the board and (2) using the moment to foster team building. Doing this is important because an organization that works well together will better be able to meet its mission.

Candidate recommendations from current board members will always be a great resource, and members’ professional networks can be a valuable asset to a nonprofit. With all that said, sometimes wells run dry, and you’re better off finding a new source of water.

If you’re interested in learning more about board management, schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me to see how we can work together.


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