Finding the right board members is a challenge for all organizations at one time or another. It is challenging to get the right mix of diversity, passion and skills all wrapped up in an individual of the “right” gender who is interested in serving on the board of directors for your organization. Following the steps below will help to ensure the “right” people are on board.
It may be helpful to establish a nominating or board development committee. The primary function of this committee is to identify and recruit individuals to serve on the board of directors. The committee should be comprised of a couple of board members who are passionate about the work of the organization and who understand the importance of getting the “right” people on board. It is important to note that the Board President should not be the lead on this committee; and while, the Executive Director has a role in the selection of board members, he or she is not responsible for this committee either.
The first step in the selection process should be to identify the skills, talents and abilities that are needed to take the organization to the next step. In other words, where does the organization want to go and who is needed to help it get there? And, while you can identify the needed skills and abilities, it is also helpful to determine the skills and talents that presently exist in your board members. A board matrix can be used to identify the skills, talents and areas of expertise for your current board members.
Now that you know what skills and abilities presently exist, it is easy to see where there are gaps. Begin to compile a list of individuals who can help to fill in the gaps. It is important to remember that even though you are working to fill gaps, you want to ensure that individuals are passionate about the work you are doing.
Quite often names for board positions will be names of individuals who are well known by others on the board and in the community; for this reason, it is important that all information be kept confidential.
As individuals are identified for vacant positions, it is a “best practice” to interview them. Ideally, all board members should be involved in the interview process; however, this is often not possible. It is also a good idea to have the executive director meet prospective board members.
As part of the process, the interviewers should share the board job description with the candidates. It is important not to minimize or downplay the roles and responsibilities of board members to make board service more appealing. Ask questions to determine the level of interest the potential board member has in the organization and its mission. Explain to the individual the board’s role in helping to fulfill the organizational mission.
Before taking a vote on the potential candidate it is a good idea to determine how the individual will fit in with the rest of the board. It is challenging to have board members who are difficult to get along with serving on the board. One way to “test-drive” board members to determine how they will get along with other board members, how they work with the board and whether or not they do what they say they are going to do is through the use of committees.
Invite potential board candidates to serve on a committee for a year or two prior to considering them for a board position. This means the organization will maintain a running list of potential board members who are at various stages of the selection process.
Board members play an important role in the growth and development of nonprofits and ministries. Selecting the “right” board members is the first step in growing a healthy board that serves the organization well.