Without an established, designated process for recruiting nonprofit board directors, many nonprofits take a casual, disorganized approach to board director recruitment. The final result of their efforts often yields an ill-composed board filled with any warm bodies who are willing to serve on the board. This approach may lead to a team of board directors who all have the same skill sets or who have few usable talents.
The purpose of the governance committee is to plan for board director membership that brings together people with a diverse set of talents and perspectives to work together to fulfill the nonprofit’s mission.
The governance committee is responsible for measuring the quality of the board’s performance on a board level and on an individual level to ensure that the board performs at optimal levels overall. Governance committees are governed by their charters and the mission statement for the nonprofit.
Having a quality process for recruiting board members ensures that the board will always have a pipeline of qualified volunteers to select from any time there is a board seat vacancy for any reason.
Best Practices for Nonprofit Governance Committees
Nonprofits have established best practices for governance committees over time according to the things that have worked well and helped their organizations grow. Nonprofits should consider learning about best practices a work in progress. There will always be areas in which you can learn and do better. The following suggestions will get you started on the right track.
- Develop a consistent procedure for recruitment.
If your nonprofit’s governance committee doesn’t have a process for recruitment, it’s never too late to develop one. Use your annual self-evaluation process to determine the gaps in skills and abilities that your board needs and seek people who will truly be an asset to your board.
Diversity is an important factor when recruiting nonprofit board directors, but it only works well for boards that make those selected feel welcome and put their talents to good use soon after their being appointed. Board members chosen with diversity in mind should never feel like token board members.
- Put together a recruitment packet.
The initial process of recruiting board directors often begins with a simple conversation. As the governance committee identifies potential board director candidates, it’s important to educate them early about the good work that your organization does. Include information about the organization’s history and other vital information.
Write board director descriptions that clearly outline the expectations for directors’ time and talent. They’ll be sure to let you know if they don’t feel up to the commitment early in the process.
- Have the conflict of interest conversation up front.
Some of the best board director candidates are busy people who enjoy being involved in the community. The more organizations your board members are involved in, the greater the risk of a potential conflict of interest. Identify conflicts during early discussions and resolve them or move on to another, more viable candidate.
- Be considerate of your board directors’ time.
Serving as a nonprofit board director is a volunteer position. Board directors will appreciate serving on a board that respects their time. Start and stop your meetings on time. If you have a focused agenda and an experience board chair, your nonprofit shouldn’t need more than one or two hours for regular meetings.
- Do most of the work in committees.
Avoid letting your regular board meetings drag on too long by trying to accomplish too much at a time. Best practices suggest that all board members should serve on at least one committee. Expect your committee chairs to give quarterly reports on their progress.
For nonprofits that lack enough members for committees, the board may consider inviting non-board members to serve on committees in order to provide additional perspectives.
- Check in with those who miss meetings.
If your board is struggling with absenteeism, it’s best to address it sooner rather than later. There may be a valid reason for a board member’s absenteeism. Check in with them, so you can address the situation appropriately.
- Socializing is important.
Be cognizant that socializing is an important part of serving on a nonprofit board. Board directors will work together better when they know more about each other. Occasional social events for board members only may go a long way toward maintaining good board dynamics. Just be careful that your nonprofit board doesn’t turn into a social club.
- Allow board directors to resign when they’re ready to do so.
Write up an annual commitment letter and give board members time to re-assess and affirm their willingness to serve on the board and to make a financial commitment. Consider adding an escape clause that allows the board to accept the resignation of any board director who isn’t willing to sign the annual commitment letter.
- Conduct annual board evaluations.
Nonprofit boards have much to gain from conducting annual board evaluations. It’s best to do them anonymously so that board directors feel they can speak honestly. Use the evaluations to identify gaps in board skills and look for ways to help the board improve its performance.
- Recognize and reward excellence.
Thank your board members often. Most board members find some degree of self-satisfaction in helping your organization grow, but it’s always nice to be acknowledged for a job well done.
Using a Board Portal to Ensure Good Governance
Adhering to best practices for good governance isn’t difficult when board directors give it the necessary time. Organization is key to ensuring best practices as board directors rotate on and off the board. A board portal is a valuable tool for storing important documents, such as legal documents, bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, board director applications, board director descriptions, orientation materials, training materials and fundraising materials.
BoardEffect’s board portal is the perfect solution for nonprofit governance committees and provides a place where they can build and store a pipeline of resumes for succession planning. BoardEffect also offers an online survey feature that serves nonprofits well in performing their annual self-evaluations. Most importantly, BoardEffect offers the highest levels of security to protect confidential nonprofit board work.
In conclusion, best practices for governance committees help boards to develop and refine responsible practices for board director recruitment and succession planning. Regular recruitment efforts will also help your organization develop a close relationship with the community that serves as a valuable resource for your future board directors.