10 Steps of a Nonprofit Board Recruitment Plan


Like many governance responsibilities within a nonprofit organization, board recruitment is best dealt with through process. ESC consultants Terry Hamacher and Jude Kidd offer ten steps to a nonprofit board recruitment plan in their “Board Development” workshop. See how your organization’s process stacks up, and let us know if you think this is the right way to recruit the right people.

1.) Determine Needs and Priorities
What is your organization lacking that a new board member could provide? What new initiatives could be started with additional directors? Once your existing members have determined your nonprofit’s needs, work together to rank the importance of these desired outcomes you’ve established.

2.) Set Goals
Based on your organization’s prioritized needs, set goals to help facilitate the board recruitment process. Make clear how many candidates you hope to speak with, the date by which you’d like new board members fully on board, and other attainable standards for your team to strive for.

3.) Review By-Laws
Before moving forward, your existing nonprofit board must review the organization’s by-laws. This is an excellent time for all currently involved individuals to check in on the basics of your organization’s governance, and to adjust outdated information. All existing members should be fresh on organizational standards before welcoming someone new to the Board.

4.) Assign Overall Responsibility
Typically, board recruitment calls for a special committee to be established. Unless you are a new or very small organization, forming a group of responsible board members to lead this process is highly recommended—a collaborative effort allows multiple viewpoints and better opportunity for success than the efforts of one or two board members alone.

5.) Develop Talking Points
What are the key items about your nonprofit someone from the outside needs to know? Additionally, what would a potential new board member need to know about the way your organization is governed before committing to membership themselves? Talking points that can answer these questions are vital to successful board recruitment.

6.) Identify Sources
The last preparation point is to identify sources for board member recruitment. Your organization may choose simply to spread your cause by word of mouth, generating leads through friends, coworkers and volunteers ; or, you may choose to actively solicit board members at local businesses, community centers, and other areas conducive to generating social activity and community connection

7.) Generate List of Potential Candidates and Prioritize
Once your organization has established recruitment sources, existing members must come together to compile a list of targeted individuals. Discuss among the group who are the strongest candidates to help your organization fulfill its mission (and the goals you set at the start of the recruitment process). Prioritize carefully to ensure a mutually beneficial fit.

8.) Establish a Follow-Up Procedure
Determine how to reach out to candidates you are interested in as new board members, as well as how to let anyone else you’ve talked to know you won’t be moving forward with their recruitment process. While recruitment for a nonprofit board position may not have weight of applying for a paid job or college admission, learning you aren’t a good fit can be difficult (even if the feeling is mutual). Keep things light with candidates you’re passing on, and let the fitting recruits know they’re wanted with equally easy enthusiasm.

9.) Assign Responsibility for Making the Calls
Who will reach out? These people, or this person, must be defined. If the new board member was recommended by an existing board member friend, it may be determined that the personally connected individual should make the call. If the process has been especially formal, consider having the Board Chair or another high-ranking member reach out to new recruits.

10.) Make the Calls
The final step. The follow-up procedure should give the caller a firm template to work with, but this caller should be prepared to work on their feet—he or she may encounter a surprise rejection or have to field questions before an acceptance is stated. While this should be the simplest of all steps, it is best to be prepared for this (or any) step of the process to take an unexpected turn.

ESC of New England offers management consulting and capacity building services to nonprofits in eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Email Director of Consulting Ulea Lago at ulago@escne.org or call 617-357-5550 to learn how your organization may benefit from an ESC consulting engagement—we offer a complimentary 2-hour assessment visit to all interested area nonprofits.