Nonprofit organizations rely heavily on their board directors. The quality of the board of directors is a reflection of whether a nonprofit moves forward, backward or makes no movement at all. The two biggest assets to a nonprofit board of directors are the board chair and the nominating committee. Nonprofit boards would be remiss not to consider the value in their nominating committee, which is just as important as the finance committee, the fundraising committee and the executive committee.
Nonprofit boards outline the duties and responsibilities of the nominating committee in the committee charter in the bylaws. Typically, nominating committees help to develop policies, recruit board members, and take the lead in board evaluations and succession planning. Nonprofit boards function best when the boardroom is continually filled with new and engaging ideas, vibrant personalities, and a variety of personal and business experiences.
Nominating Committee Responsibilities
The importance of the nominating committee requires boards to choose a committee chair that has strong leadership qualities. Nominating committee members should be chosen for their commitment to growing the membership.
Among their duties, nominating committees help to create and develop policies and submit them for board recommendation. Nominating committees may also develop policies for board members’ giving and fundraising expectations.
Nominating committees may write descriptions for board officers, board members and committee charters for standing and ad hoc committees.
On an as-needed basis, nominating committees may evaluate the board’s term limits and modify them if needed for board efficiency or to accommodate the changing size of the board.
Board presidents and board secretaries often call on the nominating committee to assist with board orientation. Nominating committees can be instrumental in helping new board directors get acclimated to their board duties and get acquainted with the other board members. Since nominating committees were responsible for recruitment, they may be the best ones to assign a mentor for new board directors.
Nominating Committee Guidelines for Board Director Recruitment
Nominating committees must continually be mindful of the fact that board directors are volunteers. No matter how committed to the organization they may be, personal or other issues may cause them to want or need to separate from their board duties.
Nonprofit board positions are not as solid as paid board positions. Therefore, it’s vital for nominating committees to be continually recruiting board directors so that they have a host of resumes to choose from, in the event of a term ending or the unfortunate situation of an unexpected board director resignation.
It’s the nominating committee’s responsibility to solicit prospects for board vacancies, research their backgrounds and start the process of grooming them for possible board service.
Nominating committees must balance many issues when forming boards. Best practices for board composition require boards to have diversity of gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, skills, experience and other factors. Board candidates without existing board experience sometimes make the best board directors because they are excited, motivated and eager to learn about the world of governance.
In forming the short list of potential board candidates, the nominating committee must assess how well each candidate aligns with the organization’s mission and objectives. The board may offer some assistance in informing the nominating committee about the types of skills the board needs. Executive directors or CEOs also often have valuable input about candidates.
Setting Guidelines for Board Evaluations
Before nominating committees can get to work recruiting new board members, they need to be aware of the talents, abilities and experiences they already have on the board. The best way to do this is to conduct or oversee regular board self-evaluations. Evaluations will pull out the existing board’s strengths, weaknesses, skills and experience. This information will identify gaps in the board’s collective skill set.
First, nominating committees need to come up with a process for how to conduct the evaluations and what types of questions they need to ask to get the information they need. Nominating committees will usually ask questions of board members about their skills, talents, attendance, personal giving, and willingness to draw their personal and business networks into the organization.
Nominating committees may decide to evaluate the whole board, individual directors or both. A popular notion is to evaluate the full board every year and to evaluate individual directors about every three years or so. BoardEffect is a board portal system that has a feature for surveys, which works well for full board evaluations as well as individual self-evaluations.
Nominating Committees and Succession Planning
It’s uncommon for board directors to serve on their boards indefinitely. Succession planning is a vital process for keeping the board refreshed and all board seats filled.
In looking to the board’s future needs, nominating committees must first look to their strategic planning and to the organization’s mission and vision.
Next, nominating committees must plan to fill positions taking the board’s current skill set into account, along with the skill sets they will need in the near future. Board development can go a long way toward keeping highly skilled board directors around the board table.
Nominating committees should consider that succession planning is a continual process in which the board’s needs may, and often do, change. Nominating committees function best when they evaluate their plans periodically.
Having distinct guidelines for how nominating committees go about identifying board directors is a good policy for all nonprofit organizations. Formal processes promote consistency and give everyone a good comfort level with the process. Boards should work to develop a sense of trust among board directors. For the good of the organization, board directors should make the nominating committee aware when circumstances may arise that cause them to resign or retire from the board. Nominating committees will appreciate having additional time to seek a replacement.
Additional Guidelines for Nonprofit Nominating Committees
A few more tips will keep nonprofit nominating committees operating at peak performance.
Plan across all ranks and positions. In recruiting board directors, nominating committees should be on the lookout for qualified board directors. In addition, they should be vetting candidates to see which of them may be able to fill officer spots, either now or in the foreseeable future. Develop a culture of learning and continued board development. Work mentoring, shadowing and job rotation into your board development cycle so that board members gain experience and become more well-rounded.
Finally, create an emergency succession plan. If a key officer, board director or committee member resigns suddenly, make sure you have a plan to replace them at the earliest opportunity. Look for qualified people who can step in and fill big shoes until the nominating committee can find a successor for the long term.