Nonprofit News from 4imprint

A key ingredient for any successful not for profit organisation is a well-balanced, high-performing board of Trustees and Directors. It goes without saying the board should get along well and have the right technical skills and experience. Yet finding a mix of board members that is right for your organisation may take both time and effort.

Shaping a board that is effective, impactful and accountable requires a fine balance of technical and ‘soft’ skills in order to serve the organisation both in the short term and for the future.

A board composed of the right people with the right mix of skills should enable your organisation to achieve its strategic goals. Below are some points to consider when looking for new recruits:

Recruit for diversity: Composing a board diverse in race, ethnicity, gender and geography can bring a broad range of thought and perspective to the organisation.

Recruit for responsibility: Be sure recruits have the necessary skills to fulfill the fundamental financial and legal responsibilities of a board. The ability to approve financial plans, monitor financial health, orchestrate audits and manage risks are among the top must-have skills.

Recruit for passion: Recruit those who demonstrate passion for your mission. This can be in the form of previous board or volunteer experience with a similar organisation or a simply a strong belief in the difference your organisation makes. A passionate board member will be more likely to stand up and take action to advance the group’s cause. Ask existing volunteers, supporters and donors to get the word out that you’re looking for board members. Distribute fridge magnets or Sticky Notes printed with your recruitment message.

Recruit those with time: Although potential board members may have the best intentions of serving the organisation they may not realise how much time is expected or required to be effective. Don’t be afraid to ask seemingly busy recruits if they readily have the time available. They’ll need to prepare for and attend board meetings, and the AGM, there will be fundraisers and events and perhaps you’ll also need them to serve on a committee. Distributing calendars that highlight board meetings and forthcoming events can be a great way to illustrate to candidates the time commitment required.

Recruit for a cultural fit: Whether (or not) a recruit would be a cultural fit with your board should not be overlooked. Make sure candidates will add to, rather than detract from, the dynamic of your board and assess how you think they will get along with the rest of the group. Make recruitment a team process – debrief the rest of the board after meeting with a candidate and discuss whether you think they’d be a good fit and what skills they could bring.

Once you’ve found a candidate who appears to be a good fit, you’ll want to be sure you clearly communicate your expectations. A document, sometimes called a Statement of Commitment or Statement of Understanding, should be provided to, and agreed upon by, new board members. Be sure the agreement details what the organisation expects in terms of advocacy, leadership and time commitment. The document should also outline commitments the organisation is making to the new board member. It may be nice to present the letter in a leather folder with a Parker Pen printed with the organisation’s logo and mission – this serves as both a thoughtful welcome gift and a ‘thank you’ for their forthcoming efforts.

As a final thought, a board member who is passionate about your cause, a good cultural fit and knowledgeable about what is expected will have a greater impact on your organisation and its mission. So, right from the start, ensure your goals and expectations are clearly communicated.

Further Reading
Volunteering as a Charity Trustee. ICAEW.
Having the right people on board. KnowHowNonProfit.
Recruiting Board Members. The Bridgespan Group.