As someone who has worked with nonprofit boards for the better part of my career, I’ve seen how nonprofit organizations thrive when they have a strong, focused, and diverse board of directors driving their mission forward. As we all know, board members play a pivotal role in guiding strategy, providing oversight, and securing resources for the organizations they serve. That’s why strategic board recruitment—including a mix of mission evangelists, expert contributors, community connectors, and passionate fundraisers—is a critical step toward building a high-performing board.
From my experience working with boards, here are some key considerations:
- Define your needs: Start by clearly identifying the skills, expertise, and perspectives that your board currently lacks. Assess your organization’s strategic goals and determine the specific areas where board members can add value (beyond a financial give/get). If you need resources, BoardSource is a great place to start.
- Cast a wide net: Reach out to diverse networks, both within and beyond your existing circles, to attract a pool of talented individuals who can bring fresh perspectives and relevant experience to your nonprofit. Consider connecting with professional associations, community groups, and affinity networks to expand your reach.
- Cultivate relationships: Engage in proactive relationship-building activities with potential board candidates. Attend industry events, host informational sessions, and provide opportunities for interested individuals to learn more about your organization’s mission and impact.
- Leverage skills-based volunteering: Tap into the power of skills-based volunteering programs to identify potential board members who possess the specific expertise you seek. Collaborate with corporate partners or intermediaries like United Way, professional associations, and volunteer organizations to uncover hidden talent. Taproot Foundation and Common Impact are great resources for connecting to pro bono talent.
- Develop a robust onboarding process: Once you’ve identified exceptional candidates, ensure their seamless transition onto the board through a well-designed onboarding process. Research shows that the board chair’s leadership in ensuring that there are clear expectations of board service seems to matter most in shaping board member effectiveness. Provide comprehensive orientation materials, assign a Board Buddy, and offer opportunities for new members to connect with existing board leaders.
- Embrace diversity and inclusion: Strive for diversity and inclusivity in board recruitment, considering factors such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, and professional background, among others. A diverse board brings a wider range of perspectives and fosters more effective decision-making.
- Assess board performance: Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your board as a whole and individual members’ contributions. Solicit feedback, conduct board self-assessments, and identify areas for growth and development.
By intentionally recruiting individuals who align with your organization’s mission, possess the necessary skills, and bring diverse perspectives, you can cultivate a dynamic board that drives strategic impact.
At DRG, we are committed to ensuring that nonprofits can both recruit the right talent for their boards and effectively engage them—read more here. Let’s learn from each other and build exceptional boards that amplify our collective impact! Together, we can strengthen the nonprofit sector and create positive change in our communities.
Natalia Kepler, Senior Talent Consultant