Evolving board of director recruitment strategies for nonprofit

Evolving board of director recruitment strategies for nonprofit

Updated: August 28, 2023
12 min read
board recruitment
Post link has been copied

Nonprofit organizations play a vital role in transforming society nowadays. The catalyst for their sustained success? Board diversity, a well-structured and skilled team at the helm. 

Indeed, nonprofit organizations offer various services, from education to religion. They range in size, with most having yearly revenues below $50,000. However, only a few have yearly revenues between $1 and $4.9 million.

According to recent data from Statista, in 2022, 36.84% of U.S. nonprofit organizations had to fill 5-14% of their positions, while a smaller 2.92% reported having 25-49% of their roles vacant. Therefore, it is crucial to implement solutions for nonprofit board member recruitment, and retention efforts to fill vacant positions and maintain organizational efficiency.

The article explains board recruitment best practices, how to optimize resources in executive search, and establish a strong board recruitment plan for nonprofits.

Expertise needed in board of directors recruitment

In the evolving landscape of nonprofit management, a key step in the board of directors’ recruitment process is identifying the precise competence and skills required. Software Advice mentions that fundraising, HR expertise, and volunteer experience are the top skills for board members.

chart of top skills for board members.

Whether you’re looking to recruit board members or create a recruitment pitch, it’s essential to prioritize diversity in competencies and knowledge throughout the board member recruitment process.

There are additional elements to consider while recruiting nonprofit board members.

  1. Financial acumen. Every board benefits from members with a strong grasp of financial management. Such experts ensure fiscal responsibility, optimize resources, and guide sustainable growth strategies.
  2. Legal insight. Those with legal backgrounds can provide invaluable guidance, ensuring that the organization navigates regulations and remains compliant.
  3. Marketing skills. In the digital age, board members with marketing skills can craft compelling narratives, expand outreach, and foster greater community engagement.
  4. Diversity of backgrounds. A mix of professionals from various sectors — like education, tech, or public service — brings rich perspectives, facilitating well-rounded decision-making.

See how we can support your board meetings

Crafting a robust board member recruitment process

The main challenge lies in understanding that recruiting nonprofit board members isn’t just about filling seats. The goal is to curate a team where each member’s expertise complements the others. 

The BDO global accounting network states that 44% of nonprofits face difficulties in attracting high-quality leadership and board members, either at a high or moderate level.

How much of a challenge do you face with attractic quality leadership and board member

When creating a recruitment plan, it’s important to carefully consider several key factors. This includes setting clear goals, identifying the appropriate target audience, and determining the best way to allocate board positions.

Implementing a succession program

One of the most strategically sound ways to recruit and remain prepared for board vacancies is board succession planning.

Meaning, the board director must put together a committee that earmarks top-performing employees within the organization during an executive search. Steadily, these outstanding individuals will be shown the ropes of what it takes to be a board member, in something of a mentorship situation.

In the future, when a director is ready to step down from the position, the vacancy will be filled seamlessly. The successor will already understand the ins and outs of the board, the company, its cultures, and its operational nuances.

Opting for external recruitment

While an internal recruitment strategy might work for a more established board, it’s not necessarily the best fit for startups and other companies finding their footing.

In many cases, these kinds of younger corporations need upstanding candidates now. Time is of the essence, and the organization hasn’t been around long enough to groom an internal board member. Conversely, an established business might be seeking a more diverse board director and must look externally for options.

Finding the most talented, ideal external new board member means a lot of the power is in the hands of the candidates during the executive search.

To further elaborate, boards should desire captivating enough board candidates that these individuals must be sold on the opportunity. Those are the kinds of people with the reputation and track record for being governance game-changers.

Utilizing technology for recruitment

Board director recruitment, like everything in the world these days, is being overtaken by technology.

All one must do is look as far as LinkedIn. It’s completely altered the networking process. LinkedIn is regarded as the most effective platform for vetting job candidates by 87% of recruiters!

Now, when someone provides their contact, it has their LinkedIn profile, making it easy to review their entire background with a click of a few buttons. That’s one layer of the vetting process wholly streamlined.

Though LinkedIn and other recruitment platforms aren’t the only technologies making recruitment more efficient. Consider a search firm to find potential board candidates.

Outreach strategies to recruit board members

Effective board members recruitment strategies for nonprofits have evolved and now require innovative approaches to attract and engage potential candidates. 

  • Networking events. Networking events offer nonprofits a unique opportunity to connect with potential board member or board director in a more personal environment. These events provide a platform for meaningful interactions, enabling organizations to effectively convey their mission and objectives. LinkedIn states that networking accounts for approximately 85% of job applications. Additionally, a survey revealed that 35% of respondents had a casual conversation on the platform that resulted in a new business opportunity.
  • Industry conferences. Attending industry conferences allows nonprofits to showcase their work and values, connect with like-minded individuals, and potentially recruit committed board members. Moreover, 95% of marketers agree that in-person events may help them reach their organization goals.

Current board members, donors, volunteers, and staff may recommend qualified candidates for the board. In turn, this simplifies the recruitment process and engages people already committed to the organization’s mission.

Interesting fact that only 7% of job applicants receive an employee referral, but referrals result in 40% of all hires! This means that having someone vouch for a person significantly increases the chances of getting hired. 

5 steps towards the selection and interview process

To create an effective board, it’s important to have a strategic approach in place, which includes the role of a corporate secretary. Recruiting board members involves carefully reviewing applications, conducting insightful interviews, and ensuring that values align. 

There is a breakdown of the board recruitment steps:

  1. Identifying gaps
  2. Reviewing applications
  3. Conducting interviews
  4. Aligning values and corporate culture
  5. Assessing expertise

1. Identifying gaps

Before you start the recruitment of new board members, identify gaps in your existing board. Begin assessment of board performance, experience, and skill sets. Consider using matrix for assessment. Please see below the example of the skill matrix to determine the qualities you need for the board search. 

The source: REWO

According to the Leading with Intent survey, there is a correlation between a board’s self-assessment practices and its overall performance.

2. Reviewing applications

A meticulous assessment of candidates’ qualifications and experiences lays the foundation for successful board recruitment. Here are tips on how to review job applications from your candidate:

  1. Prioritize job candidates who demonstrate their problem-solving skills by describing how they turned a chaotic situation into an organized one.
  2. Remember that attention to detail is crucial in job applications. Accuracy, completeness, and filling out every box correctly demonstrate the interest and meticulousness of the candidate. Typos and missing info give a negative impression.
  3. Сonsider how well the candidate aligns with your company’s mission. Look for genuine connections to your core values in their screening and cover letter responses. Candidates who align with your mission are more likely to be engaged and committed to the role.

3. Conducting interviews

This is a critical step in understanding how to recruit board members effectively. Embracing diversity during the meeting ensures that boards are equipped with leaders possessing varied experiences and insights, unlocking their full potential. 

Here are some useful strategies on what to pay attention to during the recruitment of new board members:

  1. Qualifications vs. suitability. Evaluate both a candidate’s experience and their chemistry with the board.
  2. Questions strategy. Pay attention to candidates’ questions to gauge their knowledge and expertise.
  3. Developing a relationship. Aim for a conversational flow to build rapport with the candidate.

4. Aligning values and corporate culture 

Shared values play a pivotal role in effective board dynamics. Distinct workplace culture is vital to corporate success, according to 94% of executives and 88% of employees. So, here’s why companies should prioritize aligning values and corporate culture.

Board directors play a pivotal role in shaping an organization’s culture in all industries, because:

  • They set the tone. Board member should embody and champion the organization’s values, promoting a positive work environment.
  • Board directors influence employee engagement. The board director must foster open communication, inclusivity, leadership, and engagement.
  • For board directors, diversity matters. Diversity in the boardroom leads to a richer organizational culture. Using a search firm helps to identify diverse talent and unique board member.

There are 3 tips on how a director can improve the corporate culture:

  • Actively engage in discussions about culture with your team
  • Prioritize diversity in the future hiring process
  • Continuously evaluate and identify mechanisms for open dialogues with your team

5. Assessing expertise 

When determining how to recruit board members for nonprofits, it’s essential to delve deeper than just shared values. A candidate’s expertise, especially in relation to the organization’s future path, is paramount. 

As leadership is a cornerstone for driving a nonprofit’s mission forward, honing in on a potential board member’s leadership capabilities and experience is a must.

Key points of assessment include:

  • Alignment with the nonprofit’s trajectory
  • Proven leadership abilities and accomplishments
  • Relevant expertise and qualifications in the sector

Onboarding and integration for new board members

In the evolving landscape of board recruitment strategies, ensuring a seamless onboarding and integration process for new board members is more critical than ever. 

Nowadays boards grapple with complex challenges such as shareholder activism and rapidly changing industry norms. Thus, the onboarding process is the first step in equipping future individual directors and leaders to effectively serve and uphold the governance standards of the organization. 

Engaging in board services enables people to contribute to an organization’s direction and accomplishments. Moreover, it also provides chances for professional development and network building in various industries.

In fact, the Brandon Hall Group research indicates that businesses implementing a well-organized onboarding procedure can raise their new employee retention rate by up to 80% and enhance productivity by over 70%.

Best practices in board recruitment

A robust board of directors recruitment process lays the foundation for strong board service, ensuring longevity and engagement. The strength of nonprofit boards lies not just in the selection of the right candidates but also in their sustained engagement and commitment to the board’s goal.

Here are some practices in board recruitment. 

  1. Utilize search firms. Leveraging a search firm can help in accessing a pool of competent board candidates. The search firm has the expertise in the board search and the network to find well-matched executives.
  2. Ensure committee involvement. Involve committee members early in the recruitment process via board meeting. Their insights and suggestions are invaluable, given their hands-on experience with board service.
  3. Plan CEO succession. In the ever-evolving corporate landscape, clear board succession planning is crucial. Thus, potential disruptions in leadership do not derail the board’s objectives.
  4. Cultivate long-term commitment. To establish long-term commitment from board member, communicate clear expectations, and provide comprehensive support and understanding of the dynamics of board meetings.
  5. Seek continuous education opportunities. Regular training sessions, workshops, and conferences keep the board member updated and engaged.
  6. Offer mentorship programs. Pairing new member and experienced executive ensures successful integration and support in ongoing participation.
  7. Recognize outstanding contributions. Recognizing outstanding work, whether through awards or other corporate recognition, helps to inspire motivation and commitment among board members.

How to measure the efficacy of board recruitment

When it comes to corporate boards, it is essential to regularly evaluate and improve their recruitment strategies. This way, the director ensures the board is composed of the best possible talent and can achieve long-term success. Some efficient  recruitment measurement criteria for board candidates include the following ones:

Alignment with the company’s vision

It’s essential to evaluate how well candidates align with the mission and values of the organization. This alignment helps to determine the long-term contribution of each person on the team.

Feedback from key stakeholders

Regular meetings with the nominating committee, human resources, and staff leadership create a comprehensive view of the strengths and areas of improvement in the recruitment process.

Community and private meetings

Holding private discussions and community forums create the impact and reputation of the board members within and outside the organization.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Just as in any other domain, using specific KPIs provides quantitative and qualitative insights into the success of board recruitment efforts. In fact, some pivotal KPIs include:

  • Board diversity. A diverse board reflects a broad range of perspectives and experiences. Plus, evaluating the representation in terms of gender, ethnicity, and age is insightful for the executive. This is why McKinsey & Company states that companies with more diverse boards are 28% more likely to outperform their competitors financially.
  • Skill sets. Aside from background diversity, it is important to look for knowledge diversity as well. With the multifaceted challenges that modern corporations face, ensure that the team possesses a mix of skill sets relevant to various domains like finance, technology, and governance.
  • Member satisfaction. Board members provide feedback to recruiters on their onboarding, role clarity, and staff interactions

How iDeals board enhances recruitment efforts

These days more than ever, modernizing board of director recruitment strategies is essential. The iDeals Board provides an intuitive, secure, and efficient boardroom solution. In turn, boardrooms create smooth and effective recruitment processes.

iDeals board streamlines various recruitment processes, including:

  1. Centralized storage of all recruitment-related documents, such as candidate CVs, reference checks, and interview notes.
  2. Efficient organization and categorization of files for evaluation.
  3. Safely sharing sensitive documents between parties.
  4. In addition to this list, a iDeals board solution has the following advantages.
  5. It allows top board members and hiring managers to collaboratively make informed decisions.
  6. Board room facilitates real-time communication and discussion threads.
  7. Once a candidate is hired, the platform stores onboarding materials and necessary documentation.

Key takeaways

  1. Nonprofits need a diverse board with skills in finance, law, marketing, and other areas to make well-rounded decisions. Backgrounds in tech or public service can add to this diversity.
  2. A successful board member recruitment strategy requires identifying skill gaps, setting goals, and implementing a strategic selection process.
  3. Boardrooms simplify recruitment by providing a secure platform for storing documents and enabling real-time collaboration for a streamlined onboarding process.


How can we keep board members engaged and motivated over the long term?

This article explains strategies intertwined with the board member recruitment process that not only helps recruit board members but also ensures their long-term motivation. Moreover, it’s crucial to establish clear roles, offer training, and ensure a strong connection to the organization’s mission. Regular recognition, open communication, team-building activities, and rotating responsibilities also play pivotal roles in sustaining motivation.

What onboarding process should we provide for new board members?

Onboarding is a critical step in the board recruitment process. It introduces new board members to the organization’s culture, goals, and expectations. At iDeals, we believe in a blend of mentorship, training, and meeting technology to smoothen this transition.

See how can we support your board meeting

Explore our comprehensive solution designed to optimize every aspect of your board meetings