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

4 Nonprofit Board Committees that all Well-Run Organizations Have

Regardless of the sector, maturity, or staff sophistication of the nonprofit organization, these four board committees are essential to the health of the organization and well-being of the board itself. Share this article with your board today and discuss how these four nonprofit board committees can help you do a better job providing oversight and support for your nonprofit. If your board lacks the expertise to support the activities outlined below, decide which board skills are needed, and start recruiting board members with these skills now.
Board Development Committee – This committee preserves the quality of your board’s future because it is responsible for determining what skills are required on the board, and for recruiting and orienting all new board members. While many boards have one-time orientation sessions, better boards continuously exposure their members to the work of the organization and the quality board governance they are trying to achieve. Along with the Board President, members of this committee communicate with your board members to ensure that they are making a productive contribution and they are satisfied with their board experience. The design, administration, and interpretation of your annual board self-evaluations is done by the Board Development Committee.

Finance Committee – The finance committee is often the most highly-functioning of all board committees. This committee supports the development of the annual expense budget, tracks the actual spending vs. budget, watches monthly cash flow, and interprets the overall financial health of the organization on behalf of the board. This committee supports the development of the longer-term strategic plan as well as next year’s annual plan. All of the financial policies of your organization should be reviewed by the finance committee prior to board approval. The Audit and Investment Subcommittees help round out the board’s involvement in the financial affairs of the organization.

Fundraising Committee – While the Executive Director is responsible for the organization’s fundraising, well-run organizations engage the support of the board in various part of their fundraising plan. This committee oversees the development of the Annual Fundraising Plan – and tracks the planned vs. actual results during the year. They encourage, train, and thank other board members for their involvement in the fundraising activities. They explore potential , new fundraising activities as part of the strategic planning process. Special Events Subcommittees can be established as part of this committee when appropriate.

Personnel Committee – Contrary to popular thinking, even small, young nonprofit organization need personnel (or human resource) expertise on their boards. Even if there is only one part-time employee working for your nonprofit, this committee helps make sure that all state and federal laws and regulations that affect employment are followed. This committee ensures that the wages you are paying are comparable to wages in other, similar organizations – and that each employee has a current job description, documented annual objectives, and yearly follow-up reviews that include training and career path planning. Employee Handbooks, Human Resource Policies, Staff Planning, Benefits Selection, Pension Considerations, and Vacation/Holiday Schedules for full-time and part-time employees are all within the responsibility of this committee.

Get the ball rolling by sharing this article with your fellow board members and your Executive Director.
If your board does not have a well-developed committee structure, start by assigning some board members to these committees now. If your board has committees but they’re not particularly effective, re-invigorate these four committees first. They are by far the most important to the effectiveness of your board and the success of your nonprofit.

Check out the booklets for each of these four committees at

11 Creative Ways to Look for New Board Members

Posted on July 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Recruit Orient · Tagged: ,

Many nonprofit boards are so busy that they neglect to do a professional job recruiting new board members.  This critical task is not as difficult as you may think if you assign the task to your Board Development Committee, focus on the skills you need to round out your board, and start your search early. 

Here are 11 creative ways to look for new board members for your organization:

  1. Post your board openings on volunteer web sites.
  2. Post your board openings on your organization’s web site.
  3. Talk to ex-board members to solicit their suggestions for new board members.
  4. Put an ad in the newspaper – or in your newsletter.
  5. Create a continuous pool of board candidates from your volunteers and committee members who are not already on your board. These two groups can become your “feeder team” for new board members.
  6. Post a sign in your lobby and give your Board Development Chair’s contact information.
  7. Send out an e-mail to your members with the qualifications you’re seeking.
  8. Contact the Human Resources department of local lawyer and attorney offices asking if any of their partners or employees has a particular interest in your clients and the programs you offer.
  9. Contact a college or university department that coincides with your organization’s mission.  Ask the Administrative person to e-mail your request for new board members around or post it in the department offices. 
  10. Create a system to follow-up on every promising lead for new board members.
  11. Ask your major donors to attend a lunch meeting to brainstorm for potential board members who meet this year’s search criteria.

Remember, not everyone is interested in being on a board.  If your search turns up people who could become enthusiastic advocates of your organization but they don’t want to join a board, perhaps they could join a board committee or work on one of your events.