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The Missing Link: Effective Recruiting Guide for Nonprofit Boards

Nonprofit Boards of Directors are in a seemingly perpetual state of seeking new, energetic, smart members to join their Board. The conversation at the Board meeting goes something like this:

Chair of the nominating committee:  we’re looking for some new blood for the Board. Any ideas?

Member of the Board wanting to be helpful: Yes!  I know someone!  I’ll ask him and see if he’ll join.

Great!  Odds are, the person will be flattered, will likely be unable to say “No” to this good friend, agree to serve, have zero idea what he’s getting in to, and be among the missing in subsequent Board meetings.

There’s a better way to do this.

The Nominating Committee should let the Board know it’s in search mode: seeking capable qualified candidates to serve. Members should be encouraged to send recommendations to the committee chairperson. Perhaps obtain a resume from the possible candidate. Share the resume with the Nominating Committee.

It’s best if the candidate has a relationship with the nonprofit organization. Someone who has shown interest in the mission; someone who has participated in one or more special events.

At the same time, the Nominating Committee should review the qualities and qualifications of those currently on the Board. Are there skills that are missing?  Determine how best to recruit to meet needs…to fill gaps in expertise, in diversity, in gender and other qualities that will help bring new perspective and experience to advance the nonprofit mission.

I recommend that you check out Bridgestar http://www.bridgestar.org/LearningCenters/Recruiting/RecruitingBoardMembers.aspx for some helpful tips on nonprofit Board recruitment.

In a 2008 document “Becoming a More Effective Nonprofit Board,” Bridestar says “Beyond ‘what’ to do, ‘how’ the board does its work is equally important…it encompasses the thorny questions of how to fill gaps when the board needs different people, how to recruit them, and how to exit board members appropriately when that becomes the right thing to do.”

When the Board of Directors looks at itself as a valuable human resource, an investment in the nonprofit mission, it will do a better job looking for the right candidates to help move the mission forward effectively. It’s not easy. It’s kind of like finding and hiring an effective pitching staff for a Major League Baseball team. So be wary of handing out guaranteed, long-term contracts.

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