Friday, September 23, 2011

Board Recruitment –Don’t Expect the “Fully Loaded Baked Potato” at First

This is a companion piece to “Hosting a Board Recruitment Event” at the Nonprofit Capacity Blog at

At this time of year many nonprofits begin to think about recruiting new Board members. When I ask what they are looking for I am usually – usually, not just often, told they want people who have high incomes, who will make a significant personal donation and be involved in fundraising. This is an honest answer albeit often not a reasonable expectation – especially for most small organizations. Such people may emerge from your Board after becoming involved in your organization but it is unlikely you can recruit them as a “fully loaded baked potato.” To attempt to is putting the cart before the horse. Board Members need nurturing to understand your organization in depth and become committed to it. That happens over time as you engage them with your work and your impact. They can develop into a fully loaded potato but chances are they don’t arrive on your plate as one.  A good baked potato takes slow cooking.

So how should we go about Board Recruitment?
Governance Committee – Rather than a separate nominating committee, I recommend that the nominating process should be a function of the Governance Committee. The committee should complete a Board Profile Assessment which provides a profile of existing members including, age/gender/ ethnic profile, skills, professional experience and economic ability to contribute to your organization. The data available to complete this may not be perfect, but it is usually accurate enough to highlight the gaps you want to fill.

The committee should complete a Board Member job description and application. Write it down! Make it clear to potential Board members what your expectations are.

The Board Member description
Responsibilities should include:
  • Attend Board meetings
  • Participate on at least one committee
  • Make a personal financial commitment
  • Participate in fundraising

Include the characteristics you are looking for in Board members including:
  • Passion for the mission
  • Understanding your community needs
  • Team player
  • Good listener


The Board Member application should include:
  • Basic bio and contact information
  • List of skills you desire on the Board – legal, accounting, marketing, technology, property, etc with check off for applicants
  • List of committees with check off for preserences

Hosting a Board recruitment event is a good way to informally meet with potential Board members and give you each a chance to see each other. Key features of the event should be:
  • Informality
  • Social component
  • Presentation about your organization and what you are looking for in a Board member
  • Request to fill out the Board application
  • Absolutely no request for donations - No envelopes in packets 

You can read my article on Hosting a Board Recruitment Event at the companion piece at the Nonprofit Cacity Blog for more detail on a sample format.

The Executive Director or governance committee member can follow up with a one on one conversation and visit to a program. By then the courting should be done and you and the candidate should both know if you are a good match. You can’t start out with the “fully loaded baked potato” but following a formal recruitment and orientation process are important steps towards developing the engaged Board that you want.

What are your ideas for recruiting good Board members. Please comment and share your ideas.


Anne W. Ackerson said...

Love the baked potato analogy, Marion! Right on!! Board recruits are no different than anybody else -- to get them and keep them engaged takes time, thought and energy, far more than many executive directors or other board members are willing and able to give. Yet, it is all about the cultivation -- the baking -- and we need to have a plan for producing the perfect fully loaded potato every time.

Susan Detwiler said...

Absolutely spot-on! I like to say that you should treat your board members like your biggest donors; engage them, understand them, make them care about the organization. Not until they care, will they give their best.