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Recruiting an Effective Board of Directors

Judith Deunamuno
July 5, 2010

Introduction

The nonprofit board is the pulse and the foundation of most nonprofit

organizations. Surprisingly, some of them exist and function with an overwhelming list of

tribulations aggravated by the ineffectiveness of its board performance.

Most of the issues faced by board members are a direct result of the lack of strategy in the

selection and development of new board members, as these processes are often

overlooked.

Nonprofit organizations are generally dependant on external sources for financial

support. The unreliability of these resources gives the recruitment and development

processes paramount importance, considering that the pertinence of its work is defined by

its effectiveness at setting and accomplishing mission goals.

The following work will look into, exclusively, Kyle and Loscavio’s system

approach to the recruitment process. It addresses eight steps which will intend to cover

the assessment process, cultivation of prospects and selection of new members. It will

also include effective practices for new member’s board orientation

Building the Organization’s Recruitment Strategy

The selection process of new members must be strategically planned and

continually re-evaluated, as this strategy, and the environment in which board members

operate continually changes.


Recruiting an effective and strong board is the board’s ultimate responsibility.

Some of the benefits of the Strategic Board Recruitment Model described by Kyle

and Loscavio (Strategic Board Recruitment: The Not-for-Profit-Model, 1996) are as

follows: a) Identify and recruit people that the board wants, with the skills needed for the

organization. b) Recruit efficient high profile individuals. c) Get support from high

profile individuals that can not be on the board. d) The structure of this model, its

processes and contacts developed can be used by future board members.

According to Kyle and Loscavio the strategic recruitment process must focus on a

cumulative eight steps process to achieve success. To make this model work, it is

therefore, of primary importance to engage and gain the approval from all members of

the board. Let us review these steps:

Assembling the board development team. The board development team is responsible for

making the recruitment process a success, and reporting to all members of the board the

milestones, and all pertinent information related to the recruitment of candidates

It consists of the executive director steering the operational planning, the board

chair who is in charge of the strategic plan and a fund development professional. These

individuals know very well the organization’s long term goals and how to strategically

align them with these plans. In addition, three other top performers, board members, staff

or volunteers will compliment the team. These members should be highly thought of and

have many contacts in the community.

This team does not have authority in the selection process; it can only

recommend prospects to the board. It saves the board precious time while fully

committing to the recruitment process.

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The need to change the organization’s bylaws to include staff members and

volunteers as part of the board’s development team may have to be considered.

Assessing the organization’s needs. The development team must identify the skills and

resources needed from prospects to meet organizational needs. New candidates must fit

the profile of what your organization is planning to accomplish in the next future. It is

about aligning the organization’s goals stated on the strategic, operational and funds

development plan and conducting a comprehensive inventory of existing resources and

skills.

Developing board position profiles. What are the qualities required to create a successful

board? Prior nonprofit experience may be the number one criteria, or it could be more

beneficial to have experience in the scope of activities the board members will be

expected to perform. For instance, if the nonprofit is serving a particular population, such

as the homeless, it may be advantageous to focus on individuals who have contributed to

this cause before.

The organization can customize a position profile template based on its needs. It

must at least include the scope of the job, experience and skills required, key duties and

responsibilities, expectations and key or major priorities sought by the organization.

Scripting the organization’s story. It is highly recommended, that before approaching

potential board members, the organization’s accomplishments, the services that it

provides and the brief summaries of the members of the board are compiled. Telling the

story of the organization, telling the mission and vision is a great way to start. If properly

developed, this information can be used as a marketing tool for future groups and

community activities

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Most people want to belong to something greater than themselves. New prospects

may ask multiple questions about the organization, part of the job is to fully communicate

this information. This reflects pride on the organization as a whole.

Research board candidate sources. Potential candidates can be found from polling

existing board members, the organization’s members and its’ donors, and from suitable

individuals they may know first hand, as well. Researched sources or people that belong

to associations, clubs, etc, are excellent source of board prospects. It is also

highly encouraged to use newsletters or recruitment websites such as BoardNetUSA,

BoardSource, or VolunteerMatch.

Check for references and make sure that you ask the right questions when calling

or meeting these references. You want to inquire about their achievements and the means

used to accomplishment them.

Developing third-party referral networks. The process of creating a network of referrals

must be constantly nurtured to facilitate a large pool of candidates. This can be

accomplished by establishing good relationships with other entities, or through new

members and the organizations they belong to. Third-party referral networks also help

facilitate information and support the organization may need for current and future

operations.

Diversity is a factor to highly consider in a nonprofit organization, input from

individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences should generate many different

ideas. Board members of nonprofit organizations must foster, and remain open to, not

only to different ethnic groups or gender, but most importantly, to different values and

perspectives. Avoid and beware of tokenism.

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Contacting and meeting candidates. Make potential new board members aware of the

parameters of a position when you contact them. Meet with this person and conduct an

interview based on the profile of this position and other qualities expected.

Knowing how to interview is essential, get the most experienced individual to

conduct the interview. When possible, and if no one is available, hire a professional to do

this job.

Evaluating and selecting new board members. If a candidate is undecided about

accepting the position, facilitate the opportunity for them to learn more about the

organization and its board members. This is a great opportunity for the board

development team to find out if the candidate is a fit for the position, his interaction with

other board members and his commitment to the organization.

There are a number of questions that board members should ask before joining the

organization. Realistically, this fundamental list of questions may be limited if the

prospect never had a previous board experience. It is therefore, crucial to communicate

this information to the new prospect. To be fair, you already know everything about this

person, right. All recommendation to board members must be done verbally to cover all

specifics.

Board Orientation

Just after the official meeting and election, new board members must quickly

become informed to facilitate the integration process and familiarization with the

organization’s policies, operations, structure, and other pertinent information. It is

convenient to develop a checklist with topics to be discussed during the orientation and

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provide it to the new member before hand. This person may come up with some

additional questions or topics not included on the checklist.

Provide the new member the board policy manual and allow the opportunity to

discuss and explain how these policies are integrated within the culture.

The board orientation must be a time to socialize, have the new member

understand what is expected of them and ask questions. Assigning a mentor to the new

member would be of great assistance.

Conclusion

The recruitment process for new board members is work of primordial importance

and perhaps frustrating if not strategically planned. Having a board development team to

focus on gathering information, interviewing, etc., allows the rest of the board members

to focus on other areas of governance while still keeping them abreast of this meaningful

process.

Being part of a nonprofit organization is hard and noble work, and requires more

than just good intentions. It may be difficult to recruit people considering the nature of

the work and what is required from board members. It is therefore, a process that should

always be cultivated through the building of effective networks of friends and referrals

from the community and other entities. Finding and recruiting the right candidate is not a

matter of luck but organizational achievement that would enhance the chances to

effective governance, innovation and team work.

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References

CREATE THE FUTURE. Developing a Board Recruitment Plan. Retrieve on June 29,
2010 from: http://www.createthefuture.com/developing.htm

Fritz, J. About.com Nonprofit Charitable Orgs. Where Do I Find Board Members?


Retrieve on May 29, 2010 from:
http://nonprofit.about.com/od/nonprofitbasics/f/findboardmember.htm?p=1

Gottlieb, H. Community Driven Institute. Searching for a Key Employee: The 7 No-No’s
of Hiring. Retrieve on June 24, 2010 from: http:
www.help4nonprofits.com/NP_PRSN:_SearchKeyEmp_Article.htm

Larson, S. Unique Nature and Struggles of Traditional Small Nonprofits. Retrieve on


June 16, 2010 from http://managementhelp.org/org_thry/np_thry/np_intro.htm

LASTBoardSource. (2007). The Nonprofit Board Answer Book: A Practical Guide for
Board Members and Chief Executives, Selection and Development of Board
Members (pp. 89-138). 2nd ed. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

Loscavio, M. & Kile, R. (1996). Strategic Board Recruitment: The Not-for-Profit Model.
Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen Publishers, INC.