By Susan Ross, Founding Partner.
If your Board nominees look like mirror images of your current board, perhaps it’s time to try a new approach.
Most of our nonprofit clients are actively seeking ways to embrace Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging. A stated commitment to DEIB is a good step, but it needs to be followed by actions and outcomes.
Nonprofit leaders need board members to be their trusted advisors on strategic questions. If your whole board has the same perspective or the same skillset, you won’t get the best guidance. Board members play important roles as ambassadors and outside eyes, for which you need multiple networks represented.
Our clients tell us that they know their boards need new blood, but they don’t know how to find new people. Great candidates are all around us, but it may take some intentional effort to recruit them. Here are some suggestions to get past your old ways of doing things and find new board members.
Assess the situation
Start by charting who you have and what you’re missing. Great boards have diversity of background, thought, politics, race, gender, age, religion, regionality, etc. Make a list of what you need, and challenge your staff, board, and other key constituencies to help you find the right candidates. Talk frankly about hidden barriers.
Activate a nominating committee
If the recruitment process is falling on the Executive Director or Board Chair, recast it as the responsibility of one of your committees that can be committed to a standard process and the outcomes you seek. A board seat is an honor and a huge responsibility. A process that starts early gives a candidate time to plan for the commitment, and a vetting process with an application and interviews can make the seat more attractive.
Search in new places
Lived experiences and a variety of professional backgrounds are critical to a full understanding of the issues you face. Actively look for diverse representation from community members who can bring certain perspectives to you (clergy, legal, banking, real estate, neighborhoods, clients, educators, entrepreneurs, social workers, as well as those with lived experiences) and you will have a much stronger board to be a part of creating solutions.
Let the world know you are looking
If you anticipate vacancies on your board next year, let all of your audiences know that you are seeking nominees. Post an ad or notification in your newsletter and on social media. Give people a chance to say they are interested rather than cloaking the decisions in secrecy.
Open your mind
Be open to candidates who are first-time board members – they can provide an energy infusion. Keep an eye out for newcomers to the community who want to plug in. Recognize that younger board members may not be ready to commit to a multi-year term but might enjoy a volunteer role that seems aligned with their availability and interest.
Make sure they BELONG
The final B of the DEIB commitment is critical. An onboarding process that is more personalized and responsive will be good for everyone, but especially for members who don’t look like the same-old-same-old. Board members of the future will benefit from a peer mentor/partner system and casual time with other members. Create opportunities for interaction on a volunteer shift. Be ready to reach out if a new member has missed a meeting to keep them in the loop.
Our team at moss+ross sees the effects of a well-functioning board when we work together to create high-impact strategic plans, successful capital campaigns and more. Let us know if we can help develop board leadership to be the best it can be for your organization.