This time of year, many nonprofit boards are knee deep into the process of identifying candidates to join their board. Some of you have a fiscal year that makes your pending elections near.
If you find yourself on the “governance committee” or what some refer to as the “nominating committee” and are responsible for this extremely important effort to recruit the best board member candidates, I’d like to share some insights.
I’m sure you have adopted the standard process of evaluating the makeup and skills possessed by your current board. This review and comparison to the desired skill sets and makeup of your board often identifies the “gaps” that guide your search for leadership. This process answers the question of how do we make our board stronger.
In this effort to find board members, we sometimes are tempted to just fill the seats in order to conclude the process speedily, but I suggest that quality be the driver in this important process. In fact, I’d like to make the case that developing the slate of new board members is one of the most impactful activities for any nonprofit. It literally is creating your organization’s future. So slow down and introduce some intentionality. Ultimately your organization will benefit from it.
Your community has a makeup. It includes people with different histories, skill sets, current experiences, races, sexes and ages. Developing leadership that all has the same skills, experiences, races, sexes and ages hampers an organization from making the best decisions possible. Decision making (the primary role of the board) can only be done well when good data is used to make those decisions. Good data comes from numerous sources, but a primary source should be the life experiences of your leadership.
Recruiting for those vast experiences requires intentional effort. I’ve often heard this intentional effort is “more work”, “harder”, or “extra steps”. I’d suggest the results from this effort far exceeds the energy required of any deliberate steps. Recruiting to reflect your community enhances your perspective on program delivery, fund development, staffing and communications. Having a leadership group that has a makeup that is comparable to your community leads to better board conversations. Those better board conversations lead to better board decisions which-again-is the board’s primary work.
Having a board table surrounded by a diverse experiences, views and skills and including each of their perspectives in the discussion and decisions is a recipe for connecting with the community. Connection gets your story out. Connection gets your story heard. Connection places your organization in an enviable position to deliver impactful services to your community. Go and be impactful.
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