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Best Practices in Board Recruitment

Best Practices in Board Recruitment 
by Debra Thompson and Jacqui Catrabone, Strategy Solutions

The time has come for you to recruit a new board member. You’re probably feeling stress, excitement, and overwhelm from the nagging question of “where do we even begin?”

Worry no more! The Standards for Excellence:® An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector offers best practices for board recruitment so that you can effectively fill your open seat. Like many things, it all begins with some basic knowledge.

Understand the concept of Strategic Board Diversity and its importance to the leadership of your organization.

The Board Composition Standard states, “The board of directors shall be comprised of persons representing the diversity of the community that we serve, taking into account race, gender, economic status, age, and other factors.”

You might be wondering who is responsible to ensure that your board composition reflects the diversity of the community. Many boards find out that no one is really responsible, which is why it's recommended that every nonprofit have a Governance Committee.

The Board Governance Committee will monitor board composition, encourage board development, assess board effectiveness, and more. Once this committee is in place, you’re ready for the next step in board recruitment.

Identify the skill sets needed to support your organization’s strategic vision and direction.

According to Hildy Gottleib, author of Board Recruitment and Orientation, every board should have 3 criteria for board member recruitment:

  • Must have
  • Would be nice
  • Never in a million years

The more specific the criteria you set for what you want (and don’t want) in a board member, the more likely you are to find it. All nonprofits should develop an ideal model of board composition based on community demographics and the organizational needs in order to advance the strategic plan.

You can be as broad or narrow as you want in the characteristics you believe to be important to board service. Here are 4 steps to achieve desired diversity:

  1. Be clear about the characteristics you’re looking for.
  2. Don’t be afraid to create the “ideal” profile combination, even if you think that person doesn’t exist.
  3. Write down the profile (committing it to writing makes it real).
  4. Create a board application form to gather the information that you’re looking for in a candidate.

Now that you know what you want in a board member, it’s time to find them!

Implement strategies to connect with new potential board candidates that will meet your needs.

A critical success factor in creating a diverse board is looking beyond the people that your current board members know personally.

Proactive Strategic Networking revolves around the idea that all people, on average, are six or fewer social connections away from each other. In most communities/regions, it’s more like two or three.

So, how can you begin to network to recruit the people you want and need on your board?

  • Brainstorm a list of people / organizations to network with.
  • Prepare a recruitment packet (including organization background, history, goals, and ideal candidate profile) to share with non-board members.
  • Create member assignments for outreach.
  • Utilize social media and digital advertising to spread the word about your open seat.
  • Follow up with non-board members helping your recruitment efforts.

Reach out for help if you feel the recruitment process could be made simpler and more effective.

Sometimes knowing the best practices for board recruitment isn’t enough to fill your open seat, and that’s okay!

With more than 20 years of experience, Strategy Solutions has worked with both nonprofit and for-profit sectors through organizational change and growth. Debra Thompson and Jacqui Catrabone are licensed consultants, trainers and peer reviewers for The Standards for Excellence:® An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector. Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants are independent consultants with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to work with nonprofit organizations across the country that are interested in implementing, and becoming accredited by, the Standards for Excellence Institute.

Don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions. We look forward to seeing your board succeed!


About Strategy Solutions Inc.

For over 25 years, Strategy Solutions Inc. has been providing innovative solutions to ensure the sustainability of nonprofit, public, and private organizations, and to create healthier communities. Our approach is unique and incorporates the expertise of executive-level consulting professionals, rigorous analytical research capabilities, group process techniques, best practices, and proven planning tools, which consistently produce remarkable outcomes.

About the Standards for Excellence Institute:

The mission of the Standards for Excellence Institute is to promote the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations, and to facilitate adherence to those standards by all nonprofit organizations. For more information about joining the Standards for Excellence Institute or to learn more about the ways the Institute serves nonprofits, visit


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