The ABCs of Board Development: Recruiting the Right Nonprofit Board Members

This post was originally featured in our May/June edition of the Nonprofit Hub Magazine. To get our next issue delivered to your mailbox, sign up here.


Everything I learned about sales I learned from Glengarry Glen Ross. Okay, not really everything. But one of my favorite plays (and later a movie starring many of my Hollywood faves) did immortalize the number one rule of sales: ABC. A: Always. B: Be. C: Closing.

Well, in recruiting your nonprofit board members I want to modify this adage for your board recruiting practices. Always Be Cultivating. That’s right. If you wait until that one time of year when your bylaws require that you fill your nonprofit board slate, then you’re probably missing an opportunity.

A good nonprofit board is a well rounded board. Of course, you want diversity in the standard demographics that reflect your community but you also want to make sure you’re getting the skill sets you need to help further your mission.

You’ve probably heard you’re looking for people to fill roles in three key areas: Time, Treasure or Talent. I would argue you’re looking for those qualities in all board members, just with varying degrees of each. So I propose another ABC gauge to help you in recruiting nonprofit board members.


You’re probably hoping to recruit someone to your board who will stick around for the industry standard six years. If they’re the right person, they’ll more than likely take a turn in an office of your executive team. I contend that it’s imperative you vet your prospective board candidates in the area of business management. My point is that you want to know what type of leader you’re inviting into your environment. You certainly don’t want all the same type of leader. In the end, remember this person could technically become your boss.


You’re going to find bright people to sit on your nonprofit board. But you want to find how they’re going to illuminate the mission of the organization. How does this potential board member think? Do you need a strategy person or more of an analytical person? Or how about someone who relates or empathizes? I just want to know that I’ve recruited a broad range of thinkers.


While financial capital is always nice to bring to the board, I’m referring to personal capital. When recruiting a board member you want to consider their sphere of influence in the area you need influence. And that may just be money. But it could also be their social network, how active they are in the community or the professional skills they possess that could be beneficial to advancing your mission.

Next time you’re recruiting board members, remember that something as simple as the ABCs can help your organization make the right choice. Always Be Cultivating, and you’ll find the right candidates.


Randy Hawthorne

As the former Executive Director and Editor for Nonprofit Hub and a Professional Certified Marketer, Randy shares his passions of marketing and education with nonprofits to help them implement marketing and organizational leadership principles so they can grow their organizations. Randy lends his marketing and organizational leadership expertise to a number of nonprofits in his community. Outside the office, Randy works with high school and college students and mentors young professionals to develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

May 26, 2015

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