With the new year approaching, many non-for-profit organizations are facing their Annual General Meeting and with that, changes to their Board of Directors. A strong board is the basis of every organization’s impact and success in the community. Having the right people with a variety of skills on board, will help your organization achieve its strategic goals.
These simple steps will help you form and maintain a strong and successful Board of Directors:
1 – Evaluate your current board: Recruiting new board members begins with assessing current board members’ skills and contributions: Are the current board members fulfilling their commitments?
Who will be leaving the board at the end if this term and which skills, experiences and qualities will then be missing?
2 – Evaluate your current situation: What challenges does your organization face and what qualities in a new board member could help the organization execute its short and long-term goals? For example, if the organization is struggling with its finances, you will want to look for someone with a strong financial background.
3 – Form a Board Nominating or Board Development Committee: Evaluating the current board and recruiting new board members should be a year-round process. It is recommended to form a small committee exclusively responsible for board development and future recruitment. It allows the Board of Directors to focus on their actual tasks, while this specific committee continuously focuses on the board’s performance and upcoming vacancies. The Nominating Committee may be a small mix of board chairs and members of the organization. Often, past board chairs sit on nominating committees, as they have a strong understanding of the organization. (You may consult with your staff members or your Executive Director about potential recruitment, if applicable, but do not involve them formally in the nomination process).
4 – Keep your members involved and in mind: Taking the position of a chair on the board is often a result of a long-term commitment in other areas of the organization. For example, look who has been sitting on sub-committees for years, helping to plan certain events, annual conferences or who is leading the organization’s Young Professional Group.
5 – Use a ‘Board Application Form’: Once you have potential candidates, have them fill out a simple Board Application Form. Ask them about relevant (work) experience, their qualities and skills and what they think they can contribute to the organization. Ask why they are interested in joining the board and if they are involved with other groups or in the community (also to avoid a conflict of interest with other organizations). General qualities like integrity, a certain time commitment, the ability to work within a team and the interest in your organization’s mission and goals should be a given.
6 – Invite the perfect candidates: Let the prospect candidate(s) participate in one of your board meetings. Introduce them to your directors, and let them be part of the rest of the board meeting. It will give them the chance to envision themselves on the board and get a feel for the group they would be part of.
7 – Help with the transition: Once a new director has joined the board, make sure that the previous chair sets aside some time to ‘train’ or lead the incoming director into their new role. Provide them with any materials that might be relevant to their new role on the board and offer continued support until their integration into the group and their new role is complete.
By Patricia Tait