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Three in four nonprofits have a business or strategic plan and, for most of those groups, that plan drives their board recruitment, a new study shows.

Bridgestar, a consulting firm that aims to help nonprofits strengthen their leadership, conducted a survey of nonprofit board members and executive directors to better understand board recruiting.

Among groups that tie recruiting to their business plan, the survey says, more than nine in 10 say they recruit new board members by tapping personal networks, and over half believe this method is the most effective.

At a time when nonprofits are under increasing regulatory scrutiny because of highly publicized management and financial scandals, Bridgestar questions whether the network approach to board recruiting is adequate to “ensure that our sector remains healthy, productive and well regarded.”

Nonprofits “need deeper and broader expertise to address key strategic and operational challenges facing their organization, and better ways to interpret and communicate about their performance,” Bridgestar says.

Nearly half the groups surveyed lost board members in the last two years, with resignations leading term expiration slightly as the reason for the departures.

When recruiting new board members, fundraising skills are in highest demand, followed by expertise in program and financial oversight.

Of those surveyed, about seven in 10 executive directors and board members believe their boards are appropriately diverse, and six in 10 believe their boards do their jobs well.

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