Board Recruitment

How many of you have been in this conversation at a board meeting before? Your board chair says “Tom and Jane are rolling off the board in June and we need to find 2 new board members to replace them,” everyone kinda looks around at each other for a few seconds, and then people start calling out names of people? Some people you know, some you don’t, some have skills or connections you need, some are enthusiastic volunteers, some are bit of an unknown.

It’s not necessarily a bad way to do it, but there is a more strategic way to approach board recruitment that helps you assure that you have a strong board that is in a good position to do its work in a very successful and productive way.

First: it’s helpful to take a scan of the strengths and gaps on your current board – through the lens of what a board is supposed to do:

  • Financial oversight – do you have board members with a background in finance like accountants, bankers, or financial planners that can advise the rest of the board on the financial health of the organization, provide financial advice and be in line to be the next treasurer?

  • Strategic direction – do you have board members who are familiar and passionate about the issues your organization tackles?

  • Fundraising – do you have board members who are donors, well connected to sources of funding and/or who are great fundraisers themselves?

  • Communications and outreach – do you have board members who are connected in the community you operate in, who can open doors and create opportunities, and use their network to help the organization?

  • Leadership – do you have board members who have experience in holding leadership positions, in making decisions in a collaborative way, and harnessing the strengths of individuals to make a collective, collaborative impact and that can serve in leadership positions on your board such as the Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary?

  • Decision making – do you have a lawyer (or two) on your board, especially if you can’t afford to have in-house legal counsel – which, let’s face it, most of can’t – to help the board make decisions related to litigation (if you do that kind of thing), to make sure you are in compliance with federal and state laws, and to make sure you are following the rules that govern your organization – your by-laws.

Chances are that many of your current board members are many of these things, but do a scan and see where you might have some gaps and see some upcoming gaps as natural transition on your board happens. There may be some of these things that you want all your board members to have.

Second: Make a list of prospects. Now it would be easy to look at your gaps and start naming names of lawyers, accountants, and leaders you know. But there is an important lens to look at your gaps through before you make your list of prospects. First, you need to make sure your prospects are already CONNECTED to your organization. A good way to think about is THE LEADERSHIP PYRAMID. The theory behind the Leadership Pyramid is that people move into – and through – different leadership positions in your organization and that each leadership position leads to the next. 

First, you have the “general public.” These may be people who have the skills or traits listed above, but they may or may not know about your organization, care about your issue, or have ever been involved with your organization. 

Second, you have the people who have shown an interest in what you do, your organization, and the issues you work on – these are people who have become members of your organization and/or shown up and participated in your events and activities. 

Third, you have people who have not only shown an interest in you, they’ve made a contribution to your organization by volunteering and/or donating to your organization. 

Fourth, you have people who have not only shown an interest and contributed to your organization, but they have contributed in such a way that has demonstrated leadership and contributed significantly to your organization’s success. 

It is from this fourth tier that you can identify future board members that have great potential to fulfill the vital roles and responsibilities outlined in the first step.