Having a board of directors is a legal requirement for nonprofits—however, it’s also an opportunity. Through thoughtful nonprofit board recruitment, you can create a board of directors that gathers together diverse expertise that can help your nonprofit rise to new levels.
Forming an effective nonprofit board involves consideration of both the skills your members can bring to your team and also how well those team members can work together. To ensure successful nonprofit board recruitment, here are six tips to consider as you build the best board possible for your nonprofit’s growth.
1. Ask What Skills Your Nonprofit Needs Right Now to Grow
Your board members are like power volunteers. They believe enough in your mission to offer their time, expertise, and vision toward your mission. As your nonprofit grows, board members can fill in gaps where you may not have been able to hire the right staff person yet or otherwise don’t have certain skills within your team.
When you’re looking to recruit new members to your board, ask yourself what expertise is missing from your current staff or leadership. For example, you might need help with:
- Finances: Good options for board recruits to help with this realm might include accountants or professional fundraisers.
- Community Connections: Some effective board recruits to enhance your connections within the community could be event planners or local business owners.
- Lived Experience: People who have benefited in the past or present from your services can provide critical insight on your work through a board role.
Overall, you’ll want to start by listing the current skills you need to grow. From there, you can identify board recruits to help fill those gaps.
2. List What Qualities Are Important to You in a Board Member
In addition to skills, make sure board members are in line with your nonprofit’s values. This ensures that they agree with the way you choose to run your organization and also increases the likelihood that they’ll collaborate well with the rest of your team through a shared vision.
Start by listing the personal qualities that are most important for board members to have when approaching your nonprofit’s work, such as:
You can then ask board recruits how strongly they identify with those different qualities and ask them to give examples of how they’ve demonstrated those qualities through their past work, relationships, or volunteerism.
3. Document the Position’s Duties, Commitments, and Benefits
Effective nonprofit board recruitment requires clear communication on what your nonprofit is looking for and what you’ll be able to offer in exchange for a board member’s commitment.
As you would for a job listing, write a position description for your board role that details its key duties, responsibilities, and needed skills. This will help potential recruits quickly review the opportunity to see if they’re a fit. You’ll also want to:
- Share who the new board member will report to and what the overall structure of the board is
- Highlight what the time commitment and expectations for involvement will be, including term length
- Note any financial commitments of the position
- List what the tangible and intangible benefits of involvement will be for the board member, or what they can expect in return for their service
Being clear about the board member role upfront will help you recruit dedicated individuals willing to meet your nonprofit’s needs.
4. Use Multiple Board Recruitment Paths
When conducting nonprofit board recruitment, it’s important to cast a wide net. This way, you’re connecting with as many potential candidates as possible to find the best fit for your organization.
There are a variety of avenues you can pursue for nonprofit board recruitment, such as:
- Current donors or volunteers: Look at the individuals already interacting with your nonprofit and consider who might be interested in deepening their connection with your work.
- Referrals from other board members or staff: Ask your current board members and staff if they have recommendations for places to look for new members or if they know of specific individuals who might be a good fit.
- Word-of-mouth referrals: Ask others within the nonprofit sector, at local businesses, or throughout your various networks for recommendations of people who might make a good fit for your nonprofit board.
- Proactive outreach: Reach out to individuals at particular businesses or within specific fields who seem like they might be a good fit for the skills and qualities you’re looking for in a new member.
- Job boards: List your opportunity on online directories, like LinkedIn, Idealist, or VolunteerMatch, that individuals use to search for volunteer board positions.
- Marketing channels: Share information about your nonprofit board recruitment needs through your social media channels and newsletters to let your network know you’re looking for new members.
5. Increase the Diversity of Your Board
Nonprofit board diversity is key to having an effective board. A range of diverse backgrounds, races and ethnicities, socioeconomic levels, education levels, ages, sexual orientations, and other characteristics ensure that you have a range of perspectives informing your work and can increase your board’s overall creativity and innovation.
Board diversity is one of the reasons why it’s important to conduct your board recruitment outreach through a variety of channels, as covered in the previous step. If you simply rely on referrals from within your current network, you’ll often recruit more of the same perspectives and backgrounds instead of expanding your reach.
As you aim to increase the diversity of your board, it’s also important that doing so doesn’t become about simply checking a box but rather creating an inclusive, welcoming board culture. You should never reach out to an individual to join your board simply because they’ll add diversity, but because you believe that they’re a good fit and will add value and expertise to your nonprofit's work. When you invite someone to join or interview for your board, do your research and be prepared to articulate to them the specifics of why they, in particular, are the right person for the role.
6. Ensure Comprehensive Onboarding for New Members
Remember that board member engagement and retention begins in the recruitment stage. When you identify new candidates, be prepared to thoroughly walk them through the role, get them acquainted with everyone else on the team, and help them understand what’s ahead.
Including comprehensive onboarding as part of your nonprofit board recruitment process helps move individuals from prospective candidates to invested members who feel ready to help your cause grow.
Build an Effective Board Through Thoughtful Nonprofit Board Recruitment
Nonprofit board recruitment is an opportunity to establish a dedicated group of individuals whose skills and qualities can help fill in gaps at your nonprofit and encourage its sustainable growth.
In addition to tracking your nonprofit board recruitment process, you can use a software solution like Instil to create the resources your board members need to get up to speed on your work, assist with donor cultivation, and track progress toward your goals.