Nonprofit Board Recruitment – A Job for Board Members, Not the CEO

New board member recruitment is probably the most important responsibility of your board. Your new board members are the future of the organization – and will lead the organization when current members have cycled off the board.
Recently, when talking to a Board Vice Chair who was about to become the Board Chairman, she told me that she’d asked the CEO to recruit a new board member from a local accounting firm. The board was losing their Treasurer (because he had completed his two three-year terms) and the board lacked sufficient accounting and budgeting skill sets for a new Treasurer. So I was glad that they’d decided to approach one of the premiere accounting firms in town to inquire about potential board members.
What I wasn’t so happy about was the fact that this board member had turned to the CEO to ask him to make the connection with the accounting firm to solicit one or more new board members. By delegating the recruitment of new board members to the CEO, I don’t think this organization will be able to recruit the best candidates possible – and I think their board’s leadership and ability to govern will suffer.
Let’s turn for a moment and take a quick look at best practices for donor solicitation – which has some parallels with board recruitment. Exceptional development managers know that when you are soliciting donations from major donors, you have more success when you match the potential donor with an existing donor or board member. For example, if you are soliciting money from a bank president, then having a bank president ask for money increases your probability of success. When you are soliciting money from a college professor, send another college professor in to do the job. These “like-minded connections” will improve the success of your fundraising campaign.
Now imagine yourself as the potential, new board member. Would you rather that the CEO or a soon-to-be-fellow board member recruit you? Which option would make you feel more valuable, wanted, and welcome? Would you rather join a board of an organization that send the CEO or another board members to recruit you?
So when you are in the process of seeking new board members for your board – you need to have current board members do the soliciting and asking.
Here are a few more best practices for nonprofit board recruitment:
1. Establish a Board Development Committee that will spearhead your board’s recruitment efforts.
2. Your board VP (who will become the President at the beginning of next year) would be a good person to be the Chairperson of the Board Development Committee.
3. At the beginning of the year, ask the committee to develop a list of “skill gaps” – skills you need but don’t have and skills you will be losing as board members cycle off the board at the end of the year.
4. Have the Board Development Committee present a list of “skill gaps” and “recruitment priorities” at the very first board meeting of the year. This will focus the year’s annual recruitment efforts so that everyone can look for people with the passion for the organization and the skills you need.
5. Ask the Board Development Committee to present the potential new board member candidates and their qualifications at the beginning of the 4th quarter – and, per your by-laws, vote in new board members prior to the end of the year.
Because you are selecting future leaders of your organization, new member recruitment is one of the most important tasks of any board. It is essential that this function be handled by the board and not the CEO. Be sure that your board starts early and spends plenty of time recruiting exceptional board members.

These booklets can help you recruit exceptional board members: “Purposeful Board Recruitment” and “Board Development Committees.” To read more about these booklets, go to


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