A New Approach To Board Recruitment

I attended a great workshop today called: “An Unconventional Look at Board Recruitment & Engagement.”  The workshop was put on by the wonderful East Bay Community Foundation and was led by Jan Masaoka, a non-profit management consultant. Jan was previously the Executive Director of CompassPoint in San Francisco. She's now the managing editor of Blue Avocado, an online magazine and resource for non-profit leaders.  

From my notes, here's Jan's patented method for recruiting new board members. 

Form a Blue Ribbon Nominating Committee
•    You will need about 15 people to be part of the committee. (Ask about 25 people to come, so you’ll end up with 15 people or so.) Comprise it of people that you think you’d want on your board but you are pretty sure they’d say no. Tell them this is a one- time commitment; this committee meets once, then disbands.

•    Hold the meeting at your organization's office, over lunch (be sure to serve lunch!) The Executive Director and board leadership should be present.

•    Give attendees a no more than 15 minute indoctrination of what your organization does, plus an overview of what needs to be done in the coming year. Then tell them: "What we need you to do is suggest 4 people for our board, based on what we do as an organization, and what we need to accomplish as a board this year. Tell us who they are and why they would be a good fit."

•    Then, have a roundtable discussion about all of the recommendations.

•    The goal is to end up with a list of about 25 recommended people.

•    Next, the
Executive Director and/or board leadership call them to set up an in-person meeting to recruit them.
What works so well about this approach is that when someone comes on a board as a result of this process it will be apparent why they are there and what they will accomplish. As board members we often recruit friends and acquaintances, then once they join the board we tell them: “Find something useful to do and organize yourself to do it." We hope that they will step up and get something done once they are engaged, when what we should do is make it clear to them from the outset what is needed from them.

Another great by-product of this nominating committee is that this is also an excellent way for non-profits to cultivate a major donor list.

Once I've fully digested Jan's talk, I'll be blogging in the coming weeks with my own thoughts about some of the other topics she touched on; she presented some really useful information that got me thinking about new ways that we can all approach our work as board members.

Natalie Zensius is a marketing communications strategist with experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors. Learn more about Natalie at http:www.linkedin.com/in/nzensius.

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