Secrets to Board Recruitment
What’s the key to being able to recruit the best possible Board of Directors?
More than likely, it comes down to two factors: 1) an excellent nominating committee, and 2) a new Board member orientation process. The nominating committee should be considered the most important committee of any nonprofit organization. This is the committee on which you’ll wish to place all of the best and most connected Board members. We must remember that the nominating committee tends to recruit like-minded individuals. A nominating committee’s work should take up a considerable amount of the organization’s fiscal year. One of the biggest mistakes that can happen is a nominating committee which meets just once, very close to the time that new Board members are intended to start a term with the Board of Directors.
If a nominating committee begins to meet six to eight months before new Board members are intended to join the Board, this gives the committee a significant amount of time to look at what skills and traits are needed in the organization for the coming year and to rank order the individuals being considered. It also provides an opportunity to decide who is the most appropriate person to ask this individual to join the Board. The person doing the asking is going to be very significant in a person’s decision to join. There are certain people in every community who many individuals can’t say no to. This is the type of person you want asking individuals to join our Boards.
The other reason for starting the nominating process early in the year is to give ample opportunity for orientation to new Board members being recruited. New Board members to library Friends and foundations should get an orientation to the library itself with the library director and also to the library Friends or foundation with the organization’s Board Chair and/or key staff people. This gives new Board members an opportunity to fully understand what they are stepping into and allows them to be fully functioning before they attend their first Board meeting.
Most of us don’t have a high functioning, well connected, influential Board of Directors. So, what do we do with our own organizations to get there? Again, the advice about the nominating committee is so critical. Even with an organization that doesn’t have a lot of influential members, there are oftentimes one or two individuals on the Board who might be closer to that definition than others. Those individuals should become your nominating committee.
Another possibility is to ask these individuals to find one or two people in the community who are well connected to help create a higher level Board of Directors. There are a number of people in our community who don’t want to take on the full responsibility of Board membership, but if asked to help with a specific task, like helping to recruit new Board members, might be very willing to do so. When you are thinking of changing an organization’s entire Board composition, you can’t do it by adding one new influential Board member at a time. These individuals, if added to a Board that doesn’t have other influential individuals, will very likely not stay with the organization. If possible, try to recruit four or five new Board members at a higher level at one time and add these individuals to the existing Board.
Continue to have those individuals be added to your nominating committee, so that the nominating committee gets stronger and stronger each year. In many cases, it may take gradual changes to achieve the level of influence on your Board which you are hoping to attain. The individuals currently on your Board at a certain level of influence, might be able to recruit individuals at a slightly higher level of influence without necessarily being able to tap into the individuals with the highest level of influence in your community.
By adding those new Board members to the nominating committee every year, you will gradually be able to move the Board in the direction of recruiting far more influential individuals. As you can imagine, this is not an overnight process. It may take five to seven years before there is an appreciable change in the composition of your Board of Directors, but it is the most important activity on which you can spend your time and it deserves careful thinking and planning to really turn your organization into a fundraising powerhouse.