Friday, July 10, 2009

Due Diligence on Recruiting Board Members

Most Nonprofit board members serve as volunteers without pay. And frequently, it is difficult to find people who are willing to give the time, effort and financial support that is required of a Nonprofit board. Often Nonprofits settle for finding just "warm bodies" to fill board seats. Margie Morris highlights why it is important to conduct "due diligence" when seeking board members. Important subject...thanks Margie! Bunnie

Due Diligence on Recruiting Board Members

by Margie Morris, President, Morris Ink

Creating the ideal composition for a dynamic board requires a purposeful strategy and thoughtful intent. Too often, desperate nominating committees work to fill slots rather than further mission. It’s a phenomenon that volunteer management expert Marlene Wilson calls “The Buffalo Bill Theory.” We simply try to lasso the ones who are standing by, perhaps because they are too uninformed or too lazy to run away.

A common mistake occurs when executive directors recommend their best friends, hoping for an “easy” board. Without financial expertise, a generous range of perspectives and an appropriate distinction between governance and management, board meetings can quickly become social gatherings or quick gatherings where each deliberation is perfunctory and decisions rubber stamped.

Every organization with a board needs specific outcomes from those who serve, whether it is influence, ethnic diversity, a range of skills, or representatives from a geographic area. As more collaborations are established to increase effectiveness, agencies look for assistance from likely partners. Some are mandated to include family members of clients or clients themselves. Whatever the needs, every board member should fill at least one of them.

Rather than making recruitment more problematic, finding the right person for the job narrows the search. Additionally, new board members are much more likely to say yes when approached professionally, with regard for their skills and experience, and an evident return on investment for the agency and for themselves.

A board that knows itself and the organization – how goals for the year will be reached and the mission furthered – understands that consistent agreement among members isn’t necessarily a good thing. Respectful discussion, the generation of new ideas, and an insistence on transparency and accountability strengthen boards and the agencies they serve.

The best board members are those who are chosen for a reason and who accept their responsibility with a clear understanding of what is expected and how they can contribute.

Contact Margie at margiem at

1 comment:

  1. This is a good article - a good reminder. I was asked to serve as nomination chair for the board I serve on and had no idea what to do. As a result I did just what you describe - look for live bodies. Now I have experience and know better.