By Emily Davis, President of Emily Davis Consulting
Last week I had the opportunity to provide an educational workshop for SVP Boulder County’s BOARDS WITH BRAINS program on recruitment and retention. Below are highlights from the first part of training…
Healthy boards that retain quality board members have a strong understanding of the basic board roles and responsibilities as well as a clear recruitment process. The best-retained board members know what they’re walking into and have leadership invested in their professional growth.
If your organization has planned a recruitment strategy you have most likely considered a nomination committee. The nomination committee is typically responsible for identification and recruitment of potential board members to govern your organization.
As an alternative, consider a board development or governance committee. The role of this committee is recruitment and more including professional development, strategic planning process, self-evaluation, and more.
The best recruitment processes have a timeline of activities including board self-evaluation. The self-evaluation reflects the existing and the needed knowledge of board members. It may also include a demographic work up of the board members. It is important when recruiting new board members not to tokenize particular individuals, whether by age, ethnicity, gender, and more. Without a self-evaluation component and only using a demographic matrix boards are more likely to fall into this trap.
As a note, it is important that boards are not filled to capacity, but rather have the right people in place, not the right amount of people. Most boards’ ideal sizes are 9-11 people. There may always be 20% of the people doing 80% of the work, so keep the board a manageable size is important.
A six-month sample recruitment process may look like this:
- Debrief of former recruitment processes
- Design of recruitment timeline
- Creation of board self evaluation
- Launch of board self evaluation
- Design board application content, interview questions
- Craft messaging for outreach to board candidates
- Review of board self evaluation to determine areas of need from candidates
- Add application and announcement to website, e-newsletter, and social networks including one-on-one outreach
- Determine candidates who pass to interview round
- Schedule interviews: Each interview should include two board members and should have a conversational tone
- Invite interviewed candidates to upcoming board meeting
- Host at board meeting and offer opportunity to ask questions
- Vote on candidates
- Notify all candidates about determination
- Debrief recruitment process, gather evaluation feedback from all candidates
- Conduct organizational orientation with Executive Director
- Introduce board buddies
The hardest part of the process is turning down a prospective candidate. It is the board’s responsibility to uphold the mission and if a candidate is not a good fit, then there are other opportunities to offer up, like joining as a volunteer and/or committee member. There may also be a better time to join the board as well.
Inviting people to join in the process is not the same as inviting someone directly onto the board. Providing an opportunity for all candidates to offer feedback on the process will also provide the organization with good information.
Throughout the process, be sure to let candidates know the expectations – time, financial, and leadership commitments – so they can make the best decisions for themselves. Reiterate job descriptions and elements of a commitment letter during the application, interview, and on-boarding steps. Do not surprise board members with new information after they join – it increases the likelihood that they will leave the board sooner rather than later.
Your board’s retention begins with a robust recruitment process. The recruitment process allows both the organization and the candidate to get to know one another and set up clear expectations from the beginning.
Stay tuned for the second post on board retention coming soon!
Check out these resources
- SVP Boulder County BOARDS WITH BRAINS
- Sample Board Recruitment Checklist
- Sample Board Application
- Sample Board Self Evaluation
- Sample Board Letter of Commitment
- 10 Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards
- Governance Committee
- The Board Building Cycle
- Recruiting a Stronger Board: A BoardSource Toolkit
About Emily Davis
Emily Davis is the President of Emily Davis Consulting, Fundraising and the Next Generation author; 21/64 family philanthropy consultant; and BoardSource Certified Governance Trainer. She provides consulting, publications, speaking, and training for nonprofit and philanthropic leaders on board governance, charitable advising, digital communications, and fundraising.
Emily serves as Vice Chair for Social Venture Partners Boulder County and Founding Curator for Global Shapers’ Boulder Hub. She also served as a founder for Young Nonprofit Professionals Network San Diego, Women Give San Diego, and other organizations focused on engaging the next generation. She has her Masters in Nonprofit Management from Regis University.