Good board hunting

Topping the list of frequently asked board-related questions that come my way is how to fill empty board seats with quality recruits. With nonprofits proliferating at break-neck speed, competition for board members is keen. Throw in expectations like competent, committed, and/or generous and you might as well be chasing Bigfoot. There ain’t no such creature out there — or so seems.

Fortunately, there is.

people_search_4255With careful planning and disciplined follow-through, you can build a strong, value-adding board (aka the board your organization needs and deserves). Here’s the five-step path that I suggest when asked for advice on filling a board roster with quality members.

A BETTER BOARD IN FIVE STEPS

1: Describe your dream-team board. Assembling the board your organization needs and deserves begins by committing to paper a minds-eye portrait of what a dream-team board looks like – physically, spiritually, professionally, demographically, etc. And not just for today, but for 5 to 10 years down the road. You’re seeking board members who’ll be as likely to advance the organization on their last day of service as their first.

2: Actively seek recruits who fit what you’ve described. Intentionality is the word. Catch as catch can won’t do.

It’s helpful to assign oversight of the identification and search process to a committee, yet essential to keep everyone on the board involved. Make board building an every meeting agenda item. And between meetings, do anything and everything possible to find folks who complement the description of your “ideal” board.

3: Have a plan for wooing, vetting, and inviting. Rushing the invitation to board service is as risky and prone to disappointment as proposing marriage on a first date. In board service, as in love, what you see isn’t necessarily what you get. So ask questions, vet, learn to know prospective board members and let them learn to know the organization before you pop the question. The strongest boards maintain an active recruitment pipeline.

4: Honor the newcomer’s commitment with a quality orientation experience. Every recruit, regardless past board experience or how well s/he knows the organization, deserves a thorough orientation to what it means to serve on this particular board, at this particular time, focused on this organization’s particular vision and plans. Whether you’re bringing a few or many to the board, the commitment to orientation should be the same. No board member should take his or her seat without it.

5: Keep a seat or two open. The opposite of rushing board building isn’t holding a ready, able, and ideal candidate at bay until the time is right for the organization. You never know when an absolutely perfect board candidate will cross paths with the organization, so it’s a good idea to keep a seat or two open for the unexpected opportunity.

There you have it, my five-step pathway to a better board. Give it a try. Chances are good you’ll arrive at the board your organization needs and deserves.

For more on building your dream-team board, see:

To be a difference maker, volunteer for the board development committee

Three reasons not to invite former board members back

Wile E. Coyote and board recruitment strategies

 

Comments

  1. So helpful, thank you!

  2. Great list! One thing I would add in the vetting process is: you can ask people to help in someway before asking them to join the board…especially if you don’t have a strong reference (like another board member says “I served with them on such and such committee/board and they were terrific”). Sometimes we need an accountant, for example, so we find an accountant willing to serve, but after they are on the board we find out they don’t prioritize meetings, don’t engage at meetings, etc. But if you invite them to join the finance committee as a community member, or an event committee, etc. you get a track record with the person before you pop the question. As your metaphor goes, it’s okay to date before getting hitched.

What's your take on this topic?

%d bloggers like this: