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Rules of (Board) Engagement: How to Recruit the Right Board Members for Your Nonprofit

Rules of (Board) Engagement: How to Recruit the Right Board Members for Your NonprofitBoard recruitment, and more specifically, recruiting the right board members, should be among the most critical issues for any nonprofit. The strength of an organization and its ability to achieve its mission through smart governance, creative thinking, and fundraising is dependent on the board and those the organization entrusts to lead it. With a strategic approach to the recruitment process, a nonprofit’s development department can better harness the potential of its board members and raise more money and awareness for the organization.

The following tips are designed to empower nonprofits in their board recruitment efforts and provide the confidence to tackle this vital component of any successful development program.

  1. Build a Board Matrix

    First and foremost, survey your current board. A board matrix analysis will identify the strengths of your current board, and any gaps. Organize current and potential board members into categories that include industry, age, ethnic background, affiliations, and anticipated roles. Then order your list, with those who can provide the greatest contributions at the top. Creating a matrix allows you to hone in on the greatest areas of need. This simple exercise can be used as the foundation of your board recruitment strategy. You may be surprised at what you find!

  2. Conduct Sphere of Influence Conversations

    Use relationships with current partners and friends of the organization to help recruit new board members. Set up meetings with your current board members with the sole purpose of identifying their connections. Be up front in your invitation for these “sphere-of-influence” discussions so they can begin brainstorming potential recruits before the meeting. Also, consider using a technology tool such as Relationship Science (RelSci). RelSci will analyze the existing relationships of the individual you’re meeting with and give insight into other nonprofit and corporate connections that may interest you. This exercise allows you to cast a wider net and unearth connections you didn’t know existed.

  3. Get to Know Your Prospects

    Remember, your new board members are investing in your nonprofit as much as you are recruiting them. Invite prospects to meet with your staff and leadership so you can get to know one another better and understand each other’s interests and motivations. A few ways to do this include:

    • Have another board member host a cultivation reception.
    • Invite potential board members to play in your annual golf outing.
    • Invite them to join your CEO’s table at your annual gala.
    • Have your CEO and/or board chair take them out for lunch.
    • Invite them to join one of your nonprofit’s programs or tour a site or facility related to your mission.

    Securing the right fit is vital for the health of you board and your organization. Take the time to cultivate these relationships to ensure they bear fruit for years to come.

  4. Define and Create Roles and Responsibilities

    What does it mean to be a board member for your organization? What expectations will you set, and how will board members be held accountable? Recruiting a new board member provides the opportunity to hit the re-set button on the formalities around board standards. This process should start internally, with staff and leadership agreeing on the roles and responsibilities that each incoming member will be expected to fulfill. Being up front and transparent at the start of the relationship will save you headaches down the line.

  5. Make the Ask

    Asking an individual to join your organization at the highest level requires preparation, strategic thought, and proper cultivation. It’s crucial to decide who will make the ask. The right person sets the foundation for the relationship with your organization. Prepare for the ask by deciding on a strategy and reviewing it in detail with all parties involved. Lastly, approach this conversation as a dialogue and be open to feedback. In exchange for a contribution of time and/or money, you are providing an opportunity to meet the unique needs of a community or underserved group—it’s important not to undersell the importance of this privilege.

Recruiting the right board members impacts your organization in myriad ways. Nonprofits must recruit new members who are a good fit. An important step in understanding the gaps in the current board is to undertake a matrix style assessment and then conduct outreach to analyze individuals’ networks. Get to know the potential that’s out there, unite on what your team will ask of them, and then bring them into the fold.

Board growth is one of the most effective ways to drive organizational growth. Smart board recruiting will ensure that you harness the power of your most committed partners and drive the achievement of your vision and mission.

Rules of (Board) Engagement: How to Recruit the Right Board Members for Your NonprofitRules of (Board) Engagement: How to Recruit the Right Board Members for Your NonprofitAndrew Bernstein is a director and Hailey Kieltyka an associate director at Orr Associates, Inc. (OAI). OAI is a strategic fundraising firm that leverages top talent and innovative technologies to help nonprofits grow and diversify revenue.

Topics: Board Recruitment Nonprofit Board Board Member
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