One of the biggest responsibilities of any board member, and especially the Chair, is to manage the building of your nonprofit board, stocking and replenishing the supply of talented, skilled and passionate individuals who help advance a nonprofit’s mission. And, this includes a mix of age groups across different generations.

Board member recruitment is harder to accomplish than it might seem. It’s strategic, social and continuous. Not only do we need to bring our extroverted selves “into play”, but we need to identify the skills needed to strengthen and accomplish the necessary work for a nonprofit’s long-term viability.

There also needs to be a defined process for adding new members. Otherwise “bad apples” will spoil the fruit and the board might end up composed of cliques and friends rather than what’s needed. In other words, Recruitment often means a willingness to go outside of our comfort zone.

Conversely, what can be more exciting than interacting on a regular basis with a dynamic group of people with different perspectives and backgrounds, all focused on advancing a cause? As a leader, this is one of the greatest opportunities for making an impact.

Here are some suggestions for how to build your board.  Build it and thrive! 

  • Take a step back for “station identification”

A nonprofit’s mission is so much more than a few sentences on a page. It directs priorities and actions around a central vision. Before beginning the recruitment process make sure that all board members have extreme clarity on the nonprofit’s mission and what they represent. Identify values around working well together and accomplishing strategic objectives. This “pre-thinking” review will augment the chances of finding the right cultural match with new recruits and further define the specific scope of the board’s work.

  • Start with the Obvious

Usually nonprofit staff are aware of the twenty percent of volunteers who do eighty percent of the work. Loyal volunteers, donors, vendors and event attendees represent a talent pool of potential candidates.

  • Find “Replacements”! 

Although this takes constant effort to institute in practice, each board member needs to find his/her replacement, someone with the specific skills needed to fill their shoes. The Chair should conduct one-on-one conversations with board members to help them identify and commit to engaging those who might be a good fit for the nonprofit. Consider the “not so obvious” individuals who have supported the organization in some way but have just never been asked to help. Board members might also consider their own circle of influence.

  • Self- Assess

One way to initiate the recruitment process is through an annual self-assessment.  First, examine how the board has performed in relationship to its vision. Remember to set some measurements for meeting your board goals. On an individual level, assessment translates to looking at a board member’s success against the assigned job description. This type of exercise will typically motivate board members to re-frame and evaluate what worked well and what needs to be in place in the future. In most cases, structure and board requirements evolve from the board’s mission versus adhering strictly to a traditional framework.  Alice Korngold, board consultant, explains further in her article, “Nonprofit Board Self-Assessment: Creating the Path Forward”.

  • Define Expectations

No matter how stringent or demanding, explain board requirements, including any financial expectations, candidly and clearly to potential new members. After an initial phone call or meeting, send a document that outlines the basic expectations as well as board roles. It’s helpful to have a role in mind and or specific reasons for recruiting a person at the outset.

  • Start with a bang

Board members want to feel valued and maximize their contributions. When inviting an individual to join the board, immediately engage him/her with an explicit task or project.

Building and creating a healthy nonprofit board is crucial and directly affects a nonprofit’s success. Fortunately, board cultivation provides the chance to work with other like-minded creative individuals willing to push social mission forward.