Of all the challenges involved in maintaining a strong association board, one of the toughest is recruiting new members. Fortunately, a few smart practices and proper planning can go a long way. Let’s look at some dos and don’ts for board recruiting.
Don’t look for a “well-rounded board member,” Do fill important skill gaps
Boards often work at the “30,000-foot level,” while staff or volunteers handle tasks that require specific skillsets. As a result, there can be a tendency to see the perfect board member as a “jack-of-all-trades” rather than a subject matter expert. However, expertise in human resources, finance, etc., can enhance, rather than conflict with, the skills your staff and volunteers bring to the table.
Consider what skills are currently present on your board, and what added skills would benefit the association.
Do have a job description
If you don’t already have one, write a detailed job description for the board position. Ensure it includes these details:
- Length of term
- Who they are accountable to
- What authority they have as board members
- What meetings they are expected to attend and how often they occur
- Tasks that occur outside meeting attendance, such as review of financial reports, fundraising, committee membership, staff direction/mentoring, etc.
- Total time commitment
Don’t forget to describe benefits
Many job descriptions and position announcements in the nonprofit sector focus on skills, experience, and responsibilities and leave the upsides of taking the position unspoken.
Don’t assume applicants will see serving as its own reward or see all the positive outcomes from their service. Be sure to call out the benefits they will receive personally and the benefits their service will provide to the organization and those you serve.
Do have clearly designated recruiters building a shortlist
It’s best to have a board subcommittee or specific staff members take on the tasks of reaching out to and evaluating potential recruits, rather than having it be a function for the full board. They can then bring this short list to the board for interviews.
Do tap your networks and reach out to related associations
Early in the recruiting process, board members and top-level staff should consider those in their personal and professional circles who might either be a good fit for the board or be likely to know someone who is. Another excellent (and highly motivated) source of candidates is your association’s donor list. Finally, reach out to the boards and staff of other local nonprofits, your community foundation, United Way, and your state association of nonprofits.
Don’t overlook volunteers or “day jobs”
Your volunteers are already passionate about your mission and familiar with your operations, and any volunteer may have invaluable skills and insight. This makes them excellent board candidates.
If you hope to recruit a board member with specific skills, such as marketing or finance, approach local professionals in those fields, even if there’s not an existing personal or professional connection. Many will welcome the opportunity to give back by using those skills in support of your mission.
Do leverage social media and specialized services
Use the association’s social media channels to promote the opening and ask volunteers and staff to amplify it. LinkedIn is especially helpful for these recruiting tasks, since nearly everyone who sees it will be a professional with a network of their own.
You can also employ services that match boards with qualified members, such as BoardStrong, or bring in an association management company (AMC) to conduct your recruiting effort. AMC specialists are experts in board governance and the best practices for board and staff recruiting.
Do offer an orientation
Give new board members the same sort of orientation you would give to new staff members, giving them an overview of the association, an outline of the strategic plan, recent meeting minutes, etc. This will lessen their learning curve and make them more effective.
Could Your Board Benefit from Working with an AMC?
At V2, we’ve provided full service and outsourced services for national associations for many years and can deliver the resources and expertise that help you thrive. Get in touch with us today, and let’s see how we can improve your recruiting together.