• By: Adam Wire
  • March 11, 2022
Reading Time: 8 minutes
How to Recruit Board Members

Recruiting board members for a nonprofit organization can be a daunting task. We cover steps that can help with board recruitment.

Building a perfect board of directors for a nonprofit organization is hardly an easy task. A strong board of directors includes a group of board members with diverse backgrounds and skill sets who can work together to meet your organization’s goals.

It can be difficult to find the right combination of board members who not only have their skills to offer but also have a shared passion for the organization’s cause or mission. Let’s explore some of the steps that can help with board recruitment and finding new board members for nonprofit organizations. 

What is the Nonprofit Board Recruitment Process?

Every nonprofit organization wants strong leaders who can help shape and guide its organization’s mission. But before those leaders can be identified and join the board of directors as official board members, nonprofit organizations must first understand the best way to conduct their recruitment process. Whether you have no idea where to begin to find board members or have decades of experience recruiting new board members to join nonprofit organizations, your recruitment process must be thorough and detailed. That’s the best way to ensure your new board member is the right fit for your nonprofit.

Before you hold an official orientation to welcome a new board member to your board of directors, make sure you followed these steps during your recruitment process.

Identify What You Need in a New Board Member

No two nonprofit organizations are the same, so there’s no exact playbook that can be used for nonprofit board member recruitment. Before nonprofits can begin identifying and ranking candidates, they must first determine the role the desired new board member will play on their team. We have already outlined that a board of directors is at its best when a diverse group of people is working in concert — it doesn’t do a board of directors any good to add a new member who doesn’t fill a void the board is missing. That isn’t to say every new board member is going to be a miracle worker or provide solutions to every problem the board of directors might face, but the new board member should still bring a fresh point of view and provide a unique skill set that will bring the nonprofit closer to achieving its goals.

One valuable tool that can help identify the qualities your new board member should possess is by asking existing board members and other staff members in leadership positions to share any potential candidates they might have. Provide them with a document that includes questions about leadership qualities and past experiences as well as the candidate’s passions and future goals to gain a better understanding of not only the candidates but also the qualities that your leaders value most. 

Cleary Define Title and Responsibilities 

All nonprofit boards of directors have a vast range of fiduciary duties regardless of the mission or cause the organization is aiming to fix or address. All prospective board members must have a firm understanding of what would be expected of them as a board member. Nonprofits should clearly define the responsibilities and title of the new board member they are seeking at the beginning of the recruitment process. If you are searching for a board member with a technology background, for example, it’s important to specify the expertise you are hoping the new candidate will possess. 

Every potential candidate that is interested in joining your board of directors has some sort of passion for the nonprofit’s mission. It’s important to provide them with an honest and full picture that captures their responsibilities if they accept the position. You want to attract the best candidates, so don’t hold back. Make sure to craft a detailed description of the board member position that will also intrigue potential candidates. Adding perks that would come with the role, such as working with high-profile or impactful board members, is another way to attract prominent recruits.

Contact Qualified Candidates

The most skilled and passionate people aren’t sitting around waiting for opportunities to fall into their laps. They keep busy schedules and are constantly aiming to make a difference in the world. That’s why you need to proactively try to find board members instead of hoping strong candidates will come to you.

Creating a listing on LinkedIn or VolunteerMatch can also help attract recruits. Asking familiar community leaders about their interest in board service is another way to build a pool of potential candidates for your organization.

Interview Candidates

Congratulations! You’ve determined the responsibilities your new board member will have and identified your top candidates. The next step is conducting your interview process efficiently and transparently.

Consider having a senior board member interview candidates and then, once you’ve narrowed your interview process down to a few top candidates, invite them to attend a board meeting or to spend an hour volunteering with your organization. Those opportunities will give you a glimpse of how the candidates interact within the context of your organization while also showing their interactions with your organization’s existing leaders.

Don’t Rush Your Decision

You are approaching the end of what may have been a strenuous and perhaps stressful search to find your next board member. Don’t rush to make a final decision just because the finish line is in sight. 

Once you have narrowed your field down to two or three finalists, present them to your board of directors and receive their input. Who knows? Someone might have an opinion that could be a deciding factor in the decision-making process.

Welcome the New Member With an Orientation

You found the right board member and they accepted the position on your board of directors. Now what?

It’s time to make your new board member believe they made the right decision, which makes them feel comfortable in their ability to thrive in their new role. Provide the new board member with essential materials, such as a board manual, and connect them with a mentor from the board of directors who can help ease their transition to the team. 

Inviting the new board member to an organizational event and including them in your board’s management platform are two additional ways to help the new board member feel at home.

Regardless of how long the orientation lasts — some organizations may need three hours, while others need three days — it’s important that your new board member is enlightened about the organization’s history, development, staff, finances, and daily operations.

Qualities to Look for When Recruiting Board Members

The board of directors is responsible for determining — and leading the effort to fulfill — your nonprofit’s short- and long-term goals. The stakes surrounding your board of directors are extremely high, so it’s crucial that you find the right board members to occupy those seats. Here are some tips to help you recruit board members. 

Familiarity 

One of the most important qualities to look for in a prospective board member is a deep familiarity and knowledge about your organization and mission. In order to make impactful changes, people must first be familiar with the causes they are aiming to tackle.

Search for members who are familiar with your specific needs and also have similar experiences — that might mean somebody who served on a comparable board or worked in a similar organization. 

Remember that your board member is also filling a void, so they should have a unique talent or knowledge that separates them from the rest of the board. 

Thoughtful, Attentive, and Motivators

The best board members pay attention. They embrace their individual role on the board of directors but understand they are just one piece of a larger puzzle that is vying to affect change in something that is bigger than themselves. Throughout the board recruitment process, nonprofits should seek individuals that are attentive about the organization’s mission and are curious about the various aspects associated with it.

Because boards of directors are melting pots for different ideas and learning styles, it’s important that board members are thoughtful of each other and are patient while different board members express their opinions or goals. A board of directors needs to work in unison, and that’s impossible if board directors aren’t willing and eager to embrace differing thoughts and ideas. 

Model board members also have the ability to motivate other board members. For some, that means being a great communicator who can help enhance other members’ ideas. Others will motivate and lead by example, showing others they can interact and work with the organization’s other board members, executive directors, staff members, and external donors and stakeholders. 

Time and Determination

It may seem obvious, but not everybody has the time to commit to serving on a board of directors. Between family and work commitments, many prospective board members might not have the necessary time to properly make a difference for your organization. 

Your nonprofit should aim to find board members who not only have the time to make a difference but also have the determination to do so. Meaningful change always begins with people who are motivated to make it happen — find people who are committed to your organization’s mission. 

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Best Practices for Nonprofit Board Member Recruitment

We’ve established the traits model board members possess and the proper steps for identifying board candidates, but how can nonprofit organizations make their recruitment practices even more effective?

Here are a few helpful techniques to consider implementing.

Dig Deeper 

Don’t approach your board member recruitment process with a narrow lens. Rather than simply judging candidates based on their educational background or work experiences, read between the lines when you listen to or read their responses to answers.

If somebody takes a long time to respond to an inquiry, it’s a good indicator that an individual might not be reliable. Before making a decision, however, study their past work experiences and maybe even social media accounts to gain a better understanding of them as people.

Seek Diversity

Remember that one of the foundations of having a strong board of directors is having a diverse group of individuals working together. It goes without saying that your organization shouldn’t want its board members to all look the same, but diversity isn’t always about race or ethnicity.

You should target board members with varying backgrounds, work styles, and past educational experiences — all of which will improve your board’s ability to solve solutions.

Look Within

Not every nonprofit needs to cast a massive net during its board member recruiting process. Don’t sell yourself short and limit your pool of candidates with a too-small net, but also make sure your search includes taking inventory of the people who are already making a difference for your organization.

Consider your volunteers — these are the people who are passionate about your cause and are pouring their life into your organization. It’s critical that they are given fair and proper consideration whenever any opportunities arise, even big ones such as board membership seats.

Donors are another source of potential board members. They already know and care about the work you do, so it’s only natural they might have the desire to take on an even larger role within your organization. Think about your most loyal donors and whether any of them might be good for your nonprofit when searching for board members.

Utilize Resources

In addition to LinkedIn or VolunteerMatch, boardnetUSA is another conduit nonprofit organizations utilize to find and connect with potential board members.

Several technology tools can find new board members for your nonprofit. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of them!

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The Bottom Line on Recruiting Board Members

It’s not easy to maintain a steady supply of nonprofit board recruitment candidates. In fact, the search to find the next transformative board member never ends, particularly for those who are committed to a long-term mission.

As daunting as the recruitment process can be, incorporating the steps, tips, and techniques from this blog will strengthen your nonprofit’s procedures and give your organization the best chance of building and maintaining an effective board.

Reach out to OnBoard for a board assessment to gain feedback about your existing processes or contact us for more information about services that can help your organization meet its goals.

Ready to upgrade your board’s effectiveness with OnBoard the board intelligence platform? Schedule a demo or request a free trial