Better Board, Bigger Impact—How to Recruit Great Nonprofit Board Members

With the end of the fiscal year close at hand for many nonprofits, board member recruitment ought to be on the top of every to-do list. This is the perfect time for your nonprofit to recruit because other organizations are moving board members in and out, too. Keep reading to craft a board member recruitment strategy that attracts leaders who will help your organization thrive.

Start with a Strategy

Nonprofit board recruitment requires strategy and meticulous follow-through. Whether you’re pursuing board members because you’re starting a nonprofit or are replacing a longtime volunteer, you need a plan to guide you toward your goals. Start broad with your board member search so that you have a long list of potential board members to choose from.

To begin with, try out sites that feature professionals and retired executives looking for a nonprofit to serve. We like VolunteerMatch and boardnetUSA for announcing your nonprofit’s board member search, as well as finding volunteers who’ve already posted their credentials. Be sure to ask current board members if they know anyone who’d be a good fit.

Know What You Need

Nonprofit board members are naturally generous. With your organization they’ll share their time, talent and treasure. As you seek board members to help your nonprofit achieve its mission, consider what you need most.

Does your organization need time from volunteers? Find a board member with a lot of connections in the community. What talents or skills are missing from your board? Enlist a graphic designer to help reinvent an uninspired nonprofit marketing plan, or recruit an accountant to help you manage the books. When fundraising’s barely limping along, find a board member with money or access to it.

Ask All the Right Questions

Don’t stop at asking yourself the right questions to find the time, talent and treasure your board needs. Think about what you’ll ask prospective board members, too.

Help board member recruits think through the commitment they’re about to make by asking about their ability to meet board fundraising requirements (if you have them), and if they have time to devote to your nonprofit. Ask prospects to consider each board member responsibility, and whether they’re willing and able to meet them.

Plan Ahead for the Next Search

If you’re starting a nonprofit, you’ll learn soon enough why it’s best to always be recruiting for your organization’s board. Begin recruiting this month for empty positions you need to fill now, but don’t let recruitment sit on the back burner once your board is full. Keep an eye out throughout the year for potential board members. Finally, it’s best practice to stagger the terms of your board members so that you don’t lose experience and institutional knowledge with every passing group.

Board composition is critical to your organization’s effectiveness. The better your board, the bigger your impact. How did you find your nonprofit’s strongest board member?


Jill Havlat

February 17, 2012

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