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Are You Really Ready to Recruit a New Board Member?

October 28, 2014

We frequently receive calls from local nonprofits looking for new board members. Contacting your community foundation is a good idea–it’s one of many places organizations may wish to network when searching for a great board candidate.

But before you place that call or send that email, are you clear about who—or what—your organization is really looking for?

Very few people requesting our support in finding new board members have developed a document outlining their organization’s written board selection criteria—the values, characteristics, skills, talents and demographics that are important to the organization when recruiting for the board. (Approximately one-third of organizations with profiles in The Giving Partner have written board selection criteria.)

One of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s volunteer consultants, Sophia LaRusso, recently joined me to develop and lead a half-day session for eleven nonprofit boards called “Building the Board Dream Team.”

We spent a lot of time discussing how important it is to know the many facets of your current board team and what they’re doing well. (Even a simple board self-assessment every year or two can be incredibly beneficial.) Only then can you recruit strategically instead of scrambling to fill an empty board seat with someone who may not be the ideal volunteer leader for your needs.

If your are ready to start recruiting…

  • Your organization has a job description—in writingfor individual board members, sharing what your board expects in terms of attendance at board meetings, making a financial commitment to give, and participation in the organization outside of board meetings. Some boards transform this job description into an expectation sheet that board members sign annually to make sure each person is clear about what they are being asked to do serving on this board.

  • Your organization has identified the skills, talents, and demographics on your current board and knows the gaps it needs to fill, along what’s most critical to fill first. These can be traits such as “strategic thinker” or “negotiator,” representation from a certain geography like “South County resident,” a person who is a client or a potential client, or a specific professional background such as facilities management.

  • Your organization has a governance committee in place to identify and interview potential board members before presenting them to the full board for consideration. They will ask great questions of each candidate to learn more about their passion for the mission, the time they can dedicate to the board, and whether their values are in alignment with the values important to your organization. (Disclaimer: this involves knowing what values are important to your organization!)

Some board leaders remark that asking candidates to go through a process involving interviewing and signing expectation sheets is a bit much and may scare good people away.

But if this is the case, will those individuals have the sort of commitment you expect from the highest level of leadership at your organization? Think about it.

So! Here are some good resources:

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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