Effective board recruitment, Part 2

Terrie Temkin
Terrie Temkin

[Editor’s note: This is the second of two articles on nonprofit board recruitment. Part 1 discussed creating a strategic and intentional board-recruitment plan.]

By Terrie Temkin

You’ve done the hard, behind-the-scenes work to create a strategic and intentional board-recruitment plan for your nonprofit (see Part I of this series).

You’ve identified your nonprofit’s needs and have plotted to attract the right people.

Now it’s time to fold the following tips into your plan so you’ll have qualified board candidates beating down your door to be a part of what you are doing:

  • 1. Recruitment is the job of the board, not the executive director. The executive director may have some excellent recommendations, but should not be “hiring” his or her bosses. Nor should board members feel any obligation to the executive director.
  • 2. Recruitment is a year-round job. The generation of names and the cultivation of prospects should be continuous. Many organizations ask their board development or governance committees to spearhead this activity, but every board member should be contributing to the process on an ongoing basis.
  • 3. Look beyond the usual suspects. The era of looking for lawyers and accountants is over. Having one of each isn’t wrong – they can help you think clearly and ask important questions. But you can hire a lawyer and accountant (it’s not recommended to expect board members to take on these responsibilities anyway, for reasons too many to get into here). The same is true of a marketing specialist or a media representative if you are looking for more visibility. (Ask them to serve on a time-limited committee instead.) Nor should you aim for affluence and influence. A study by Herman and Renz shows that individuals who fit that profile often produce less for an organization than others with less clout. Don’t forget to seek out women. A recent study on women and philanthropy shows that 90 percent of women control or share equally in the decision-making about which organizations will receive their family’s money. They are also more likely than men to donate to organizations for which they volunteer.
  • 4. Look for people who already are committed to your mission. Studies have shown that passion for mission is the number-one indicator of board success.
  • 5. Encourage people to serve on a committee prior to putting them on the board. It’s a great place to test out their true commitment and ability, and to weed out those people who are all talk.
  • 6. Avoid asking husbands and wives or staff to serve on the board. The potential for conflict of interest is high and in most cases not worth the risk. Besides, the IRS takes a dim view of nonprofits where the same last name appears more than once on the board roster.
  • 7. Look for people who will challenge the status quo, ask questions and insist on multiple options. One of the most important roles a board member can play is that of loyal opposition. It might be irritating at first, but the organization will be richer for it.
  • 8. Bring up the expectations when you first speak with potential board members, when you ask them to join the board, when you officially welcome them to the organization and when you orient them. You can’t stress these often enough.
  • 9. Don’t ask someone to join your board if that person never accepts an invitation to your events. Clearly he or she is not interested and will make an unreliable board member.
  • 10. Ask people to serve only a single term, even if the bylaws allow multiple terms. Let them earn the right to serve additional terms. And while not a recruitment issue, don’t suffer someone who isn’t performing. Remember that expectations list? Ask non-performing members to step down before they can infect the rest of the board.

So go to work and good luck. You’ll soon begin to see positive, substantive changes in your board’s effectiveness.

Terrie Temkin is founding principal at Miami, Fla.-based management consulting group CoreStrategies for Nonprofits.

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