If you had to choose two words to describe board work in 2020, which would you choose? Most boards might say “adjust” and “adapt”. 2020 has brought a host of traumatic events including out-of-control fires, hurricanes, tornados, and of course, COVID-19, making it difficult for boards to function at all, let alone meet in person. Nonetheless, board work must go on. If there was ever a time that boards needed strong leadership, it’s certainly now. How will you recruit board members when you can’t meet face-to-face?
Regardless of what’s going on in the world, board member terms will continue to expire, and vacancies will continue to open up. To that end, board member recruitment efforts must go on. The Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofits Sector recommends that nonprofit boards meet at least four times every year, and as frequently as needed to conduct the organization’s business. The handbook doesn’t make exceptions for pandemics or other traumatic events.
For the present, there’s no way to know when boards will be able to meet in person again safely. When you last met, you may have had discussions about having remote meetings in the future, but circumstances in the world today are causing you to adjust and adapt right now.
For the foreseeable future, there’s little or no choice except for boards to meet remotely. By now, you’ve probably figured out how to have board meetings remotely, but how do you recruit board members in a remote environment to ensure strong leadership during these trying times?
How to Recruit Board Members Remotely
Technology is your board’s friend as you’re proceeding with all your board activities. Typically, your nominating committee would meet in person to discuss board recruitment efforts. You can still do that remotely.
Your board portal is an important hub where your committee can collaborate and share resumes and other information securely. As you reach out to candidates, be sure to give them a copy of the approved job description for board members. You should be reviewing board member job descriptions regularly anyway. If you haven’t, now is a good time to do it because the current circumstances may warrant some changes to it.
In your interactions with prospective board members, be clear on what your expectations are. Inform them of the dates and times for board meetings and whether they’re expected to devote additional time for committee work. If you expect them to attend board and/or committee meetings in person when you can safely do so, you should let them know this as well.
Board members are usually expected to give some type of donation to the organization, so be clear about that right up-front, and make sure they know how to follow through on it.
Where to Find Competent Board Member Recruits
The process of identifying board member recruits doesn’t change much in a remote environment. Current board members may have some recommendations. Here are some other places you can advertise for board talent:
- Scout out staff and volunteers for talent
- Leadership talent agencies
Don’t feel like you have to settle for marginally qualified candidates. Considering you’ll be working remotely for some time; you may be able to expand the geographical area of your search and take advantage of a greater search area for your recruitment pool. If you choose to expand the geographical area, take note of any changes in time zones that could affect meeting times.
Put Your Board Portal to Work
Change is always difficult but consider all the benefits of using your board portal.
In addition to making greater use of secure communication and file-sharing, consider the ways that you can utilize the online survey tool at this time. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Establish a short survey that you can send to members, volunteers, and staff to gauge their interest in becoming a board member.
- Establish questionnaires for board member recruits to learn more about their experience, skills, and qualifications.
- Set up a survey with pre-interview questions to narrow your search to the final few for a video interview.
- Distribute conflict of interest questionnaires.
Remote Interviewing Tips
When you’ve identified the final few candidates, set up a video meeting with each of them individually. This is a great opportunity to see if how they handle a remote discussion and if they have the technical ability to use the software without too much difficulty.
- Make sure they know how long the interview will last before you get started.
- Encourage your nominating committee to act professionally. Be courteous and try to conduct the meeting in a quiet space without noise and distractions.
- Smile and be personable, just as you would be in person. Keep things light and friendly.
- Be thorough and honest. If the board or the organization is going through a bad time, don’t sugar-coat it. It’s better to get things out in the open than to deal with regrets later.
- Test your video conferencing software to make sure the audio and video are clear.
- Use active listening techniques to communicate. Body language is harder to detect on video, so try not to talk over each other. Give a couple of seconds before speaking to account for internet lag time.
- Look directly into the camera on your computer. It’s the next best thing to direct eye contact.
- Remember that board member candidates are also assessing your board and organization. It has to be a good fit for them too.
- Before closing the interview meeting, let board candidates know when you plan to make your final decision, how you’ll inform them, and how long you plan to keep their resume on file if they’re not chosen.
Adjusting and adapting isn’t such a bad thing when you have the right tools to help you get through it. That’s why a BoardEffect board portal can really benefit your organization right now. It features an online calendar where board members can view all activities and events in real-time. Board members can access their board books, reports, and meeting minutes completely online. Create profiles of the existing board within your portal so you can assess the strengths and gaps in skills and talent. You can also develop a resource library in your portal with articles to train and educate your board. This is a great thing to promote during your interviews.
It’s impossible to predict what will happen in the coming months. Some things will be different when it becomes easier to have in-person meetings. The adjustments you need to make during this time will serve you well in the future in some ways and that’s something to look forward to. In the interim, rely on BoardEffect to help your board lead with strength and confidence.
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