A nonprofit’s success depends on strategic, visionary leadership from the board. Books have been written about how to identify and cultivate the “right” board members. While our advice to clients about the right board members for their particular needs is highly customized and specific, we share the following suggestions for a process to guide your next round of board nominations.

1. Assess the current board. Effective board recruitment follows the principles of matching available resources with existing needs. How does a board know what it needs? It must first clarify what it already has. Using a board profile grid reveals any missing ingredients and allows the board to focus its search in the right direction.

2. Advancing the mission. Look to the strategic plan to identify the organization’s critical needs over the next 2-3 years. Identify several criteria that candidates must meet to help advance the mission and move the organization forward on its critical path.

3. Consider enlisting outside input. Do your board members all know the same people? Meet with community members who might be able to recommend candidates not known to your board.

4. Prioritize candidates. Review the names submitted and prioritize the candidates in relation to their perceived ability to move the organization forward on its critical path. Reach out to the highly ranked candidates to determine their interest in being considered for board trusteeship.

5. Orient before nomination. Conduct in-person orientation sessions with prospective board members to explain more fully the roles and responsibilities of the board as a whole and individual board trustee responsibility. Don’t let candidates skip the orientation! Remember, these individuals are being asked to make a multi-year time commitment. If they insist they don’t have an hour and a half of time to attend the orientation, it should raise some questions about their level of commitment.

6. Selection of nominees. Evaluate each candidate after the orientation as to their commitment to the mission; time available for board work; and key skills, knowledge and other assets that match the identified recruiting criteria. In accordance with the bylaws, develop election materials for only those candidates who best meet the needs of the organization.

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The generous will prosper: those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
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