A nonprofit board is a group of of industry leaders and experts or persons with lived experiences that comes together and shares their expertise and talent with the nonprofit. They do so in many different ways; the most common types are advisory and governance boards, which depends on whether they provide guidance but no official decisions or have the power to implement changes, respectively.
Based on their role and scope, in the nonprofit world, it’s also common to categorize boards as steering or rowing, with steering boards being the ones that lead the organization but remain separate from day-to-day operations and rowing board members rolling up their sleeves and getting involved in daily work.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see the critical role that board members have in a nonprofit’s success in the long run.
Filling the Seats at Your Nonprofit Board
Recruiting your board members is very similar to finding employees, in that you’ll want to find someone whose skills, interests and expectations align with your organization’s needs.
The first step to staffing your nonprofit board is to determine the purpose of the board. In general, advisory boards are created with a specific objective in mind, whereas governance boards are broader. For example, you may have an advisory board to assist in a time of transition or one created to increase reach or attract volunteers. So the advisory board member’s term will likely be shorter than that of a governance board member. Similarly, the skills will be more specific and tailored to this purpose, which can lead your search to specific networks or professional circles.
For continued success, you’ll want to create a recruitment strategy you can replicate in the future, including these steps:
Define Your Needs
First, you need to determine what seat you’re looking to fill on the board. Identify if there are any specific skills you need, for example, do you need someone to serve as the Treasurer, therefore you are looking for someone with financial or accounting expertise. Identifying the core needs of your board will be key to recruiting the right members.
Key board member expertise or skills you may consider are: marketing, finance/accounting, human resources, legal, and fundraising.
Clarify the Role
Just like a job post, you’ll want a clear set of expectations, including must-have skills, time commitment, and ongoing duties for this new board member. Your role description should include a list of the benefits the board member will have access to, clear responsibilities, hierarchy and authority (who do they respond to?), and the duration of the term.
Create the Actual Recruitment Plan
You’ll need to decide who is in charge of vetting and interviewing candidates, as well as who makes the final call. And your plan needs to include a detailed timeline of when this person is expected to begin their tenure.
Onboard Your New Board Member
Once all is said and done, it’s time to welcome your new board member into the team. Your onboarding process will be slightly different from an employee’s, but creating and documenting it will ensure a successful welcome for everyone joining your organization.
Include a welcome letter, a role description, a list of the software and tools they will need to participate in meetings and other duties, a goodie bag if you have any merch, the standard operating procedures they will need to fulfill their role, and a list of any contacts in the organization they may need to communicate with.
Where To Find Nonprofit Board Members
You can use many channels for recruiting board members, the same way you can for recruiting volunteers. Referrals and your professional network are the first places you’ll want to look at when putting together a new board. Likewise, you’ll want to check in with your peers and coworkers to tap into their networks and consider previous board members or volunteers, depending on the talents you’re looking for. And finally, find professional networks in the relevant industry for highly specialized talent.
Additionally, many platforms are designed to help nonprofit leaders find top talent for their organizations. Ahead are just a few of our favorites.
BoardStrong is a New York-based organization that connects nonprofits with candidates to form their governance boards. They also provide consulting services related to recruitment and governance.
LinkedIn is the most widely known and used professional network on the planet. And LinkedIn for Nonprofits is an excellent platform for finding nonprofit board members.
Idealist is a global network for people interested in volunteering and working in the nonprofit sector. Their job and volunteer search include many nonprofit board opportunities around the world.
VolunteerMatch is a service that helps nonprofits find volunteers in a range of different areas, including COVId relief, housing issues, and more.
Taproot is a platform that connects professionals with volunteering opportunities, consulting, and other professional services virtually. Many of the opportunities are short engagements, but there’s a potential to connect with professionals and find long-term services.
Nonprofit Leadership Center
Nonprofit Leadership Center is an educational organization that provides training and development opportunities for nonprofit leaders. They also connect nonprofits to leaders, communities and volunteers, including board members.
Your Nonprofit Is as Strong as the People Who Bring It to Life
The success of your organization depends on the people who drive the strategy and steer your day-to-day operations — your board. An effective nonprofit board is the difference between hitting your organizational objectives and falling short.
If you’re looking for help in developing a recruitment strategy, whether for your board, employees or volunteers, book a consultation now and together, we will draw a plan for you to kickstart your recruitment for success.