Nonprofits continue to experience high turnover at all levels. Ensuring board continuity with strong member-building practices and maintenance is top of mind for nonprofits. Challenges to building the right board vary. In some cases, community members are becoming increasingly selective with their time. In smaller communities, it may be difficult to find a candidate with the right expertise and background. But with creativity and diligence, your organization can form a strong pipeline for the future.

Identify your board profile

Understanding the objective and stage of your board is an important step in finding the right people to fill openings. For example, an early stage, working board is going to require board members with different profiles than a governing board that performs more advisory and fundraising duties. Compare your objective with the skills and background of your current board members and take note of any gaps. 

Create clear role descriptions

 Be specific about the responsibilities of each role, including each officer position, board member and committee chair. This guidance will help keep board members accountable and align opportunities for new members. 

Review bylaws

Bylaws can set guidelines for board size, geographic limitations and requirements, election procedures, member removal, term limits and structure, and more. Understand the rules set forth by the founding bylaws, and ensure they make sense for the organization’s current structure.  

Many nonprofits have a need for legal expertise and representation on their board. If that is the case for your organization, consider what professional associations exist in your community that might help you get connected to the right candidates. 

Consider a governance committee

A governance committee can help actively assess the needs of the board and organization over time. As an ongoing part of the governance process, this committee can help build a pipeline of new members, reducing the recruitment burden on executive directors. 

Be creative with recruitment

Once you have identified the gaps in your board — skillsets and background, as well as potential future turnover — get creative in finding your new members. Look to your top volunteers, committee members who may not be on the board, young professional board members and key corporate donor affiliates as great possibilities. 

Connect with people in your personal and professional networks. Ask them for referrals, or to get the word out to their networks. Use both traditional and social media, contact your local business journal or post to LinkedIn.

Recruit even when your board is full. When there is not an immediate opening, keep a short list of potential members, and keep them engaged through task forces, events and volunteer opportunities. 

Get candidates involved

In addition to formal interviews, invite candidates to meet with the executive director and board chair of your organization. Joining a board is as much about the needs of the organization as it is about the potential board member. Demonstrating an understanding of what motivates and inspires new board members can lead to a more meaningful experience

Orientation is essential

Create a repeatable onboarding program that reviews accountability, time commitments and responsibilities. Demonstrate mission-oriented, impact-driven work and how the board connects with each other and holds each other accountable. Share history of the organization as well as an overview of the key leaders and strategic plans. Make sure the new members feel like a part of the organization.

The future of your board

Finding interested individuals willing to devote the necessary time to effective board service while also matching needed skill sets is a continual challenge. With these tactics, you can help your organization build a board member pipeline for the future.

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