At this time of year, many boards appoint their nominating committees to identify and recruit new board members. Being thoughtful and strategic in recruiting new members helps ensure that the board has the necessary skills and community connections to strengthen the organization’s work.
Identifying prospective board members
An organization should look first to its board committees and its supporter database for possible board candidates. It makes sense to draw new board members from a pool of people who have shown interest and commitment to the organization through their work on a committee, by attending an event, or by volunteering or making a financial contribution. These individuals are likely candidates for even deeper involvement with the organization.
As your board begins recruitment, consider the skills and community connections that are currently around the board table. Then, examine the strategic plan and consider the work the organization has ahead of it. Determine what board member skills and capabilities will be necessary to accomplish this work. If there are gaps in the skills and connections that the board will need, strategic board recruitment can help address those gaps. In examining the list of prospective board members, identify—and then actively recruit—those candidates who bring the skills and connections that the board will need in the upcoming year.
Building a Diverse Board: Start by Diversifying Your Supporter Lists
It’s difficult to develop a diverse board if your organization has relatively homogeneous committee and supporter lists. Therefore, throughout the year, your organization should work to expand its networks by connecting with people throughout the community. Reach beyond the board members’ networks to build committees and look for volunteers and supporters. As the organization’s networks grow and become more diverse, the pool of possible board members does the same.
If the organization doesn’t currently have efforts in place to build connections throughout the community, begin these now. Use the opportunity of board recruitment to network and meet new people. Throughout the upcoming year, develop your organization’s relationship with them by inviting them to organizational events and volunteer opportunities.
Building the team
An effective board should be greater than the sum of its parts. Even as the board brings on people who have necessary skills, board orientation and education are necessary to help members understand the best ways to connect their skills to their board roles and responsibilities. Board retreats or planning sessions provide opportunities for board members to get to know one another’s communication styles and learn to work together.
Your board’s recruitment cycle can affect how well the board works together. Organizations that have an ongoing recruitment cycle that constantly introduces new members to the board may have a more difficult time melding individual board member strengths into a strong and well-functioning whole. Bringing new members onto the board once a year can help build board cohesiveness.
As your board moves into its next nominations cycle, think strategically about the skills and connections that it needs to do its best work in the upcoming year. If you find that your organization struggles to recruit people with different perspectives to the board table, embark on conscious and consistent efforts to broaden the organization’s networks and connections throughout the community. Future nominating committees will thank you for expanding the list of prospective board members and your organization will benefit from the increase in community awareness of its work that these expanded networks help provide.
A version of this post first appeared in the Corridor Business Journal.