Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Non-profit Board recruitment resources

Board recruitment is on my mind because I'm starting my second year chairing a non-profit Board and the personnel committee, which in our organization serves as the nominations committee, has asked me to help them think through the framing of our nominations process. As a pastor in the United Methodist church, I also serve as the chair of our congregation's nominations committee, so it also true that I've always got nominations thoughts in the back of my mind. 

I remember the first non-profit Board on which I served. It was a local Board, and I remember looking around and noting that I was the youngest one there and likely the only person of my generation. I was also the only pastor. In retrospect, I had likely been invited to join the group in large part because someone had been working from a Board matrix and was hoping to fill in some spots that had looked empty. That Board was where I gained my working knowledge of profit/loss reports, donor relations and personnel committees; and in my second term learned how to conduct organizational merger due diligence when our affiliate merged with one in a city a few counties away. Since then I have served as the Executive Director of two non-profits, Interim Executive Director of two others, and been a member and/or officer of at least twelve others. I've learned a great deal along the way, including the value of taking the time to recruit a mission-focused Board of Directors. 

Some Boards on which I have served have fairly well-defined recruitment plans accompanied by firm two three-year term rotations for service, but many others have found themselves dealing with some stress when they realize that several long-term Board members are retiring from service at the same time. I went searching online for some of my favorite tools for considering both recruitment and composition, and have assembled some here.

I remember the first time I heard of something called a Board Matrix. I think it was about 15 years ago, and I was probably attracted to it because it involved a chart and the word "matrix." When I searched for more information about the board matrix, the first thing I found was a critique of it from Blue Avocado, the enewsletter of American Nonprofits (find out more and sign up for the enews here: blue avocado This article matrix critique describes both the board matrix model of analyzing board composition and then proposes a better way, which hinges on recruiting Board members to help meet the goals of the organization.

The idea is this: determine what your organizational goals are, figure out what your Board’s role is in meeting those goals, and recruit people who can help you achieve those goals. This might sound like an obvious recruitment strategy, but often we use other strategies, such as replacing a Board member with someone we already know well; finding someone who reminds us of the person who is departing; or continuing to mine a particular institution or workplace for volunteers who serve in sequence.

I suggest reading the Blue Avocado article above deeply but then returning to some of the notions of what made the matrix popular a decade or so ago. Here’s a link to a sample template I found online: matrix template While the formulaic nature of the matrix can be problematic, stifle creativity and prevent the nominations or governance committee from recruiting new members with the overall vision and/or near-term goals in mind, I do think it carries with it the asset of accountability when it comes to having a lens for diversity within the governing body. Any time we are intentional about saying, “who is at our governing body table, and are they representative of our community and people who might be overlooked?” I think we are helping our Board of Directors become stronger.

I think diversity in a Board of Directors strengthens the group, and this includes personal demographics as well as knowledge base, constituent and affinity groups, and local/regional perspectives. While I was looking for a sample board matrix, I found this article, which is one of many on different topics related to diversity on non-profit Boards. I think it is helpful and compelling: racial diversity on nonprofit boards

I like to include a garden photo - this is a photo of the Botanicial garden in Berlin, from September 2016



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