Challenge #3: Board Recruitment

Finding the right person to fill a board director position is a challenge for most nonprofits. Where do you turn when you are searching for a good quality candidate with a strong skill set and adequate experience? This week, we are reviewing 5 Common Nonprofit Challenges and how to solve them. Let’s take a deeper look at number three:

3. “How can I find and recruit high value directors to serve on our board?”

Here are some thoughts for you to consider:

• Is board recruitment a year-round process? Successful executive directors are always on the look out for board candidates. They usually maintain a private list of potential board candidates throughout the year and encourage their current directors to do the same. That way, there should be no lack of high value candidates to consider when other directors rotate off the board or when unanticipated openings on the board occur.

• What does your board needs in terms of people, skill sets, etc. to be effective in its role going forward? By identifying future needs, new board candidates can be selected based on their capacity to fulfill those needs and potential for helping the agency accomplish it’s strategic plan. Simply filling open seats with friends or major donors is a recipe for trouble.

• Who are the community leaders you’d like to recruit onto your board but cannot because they are already committed to other agencies? Make a list of them and periodically stay in touch with them. When they rotate off other boards, they may be open to joining yours.

• Avoid the year-end rush to find warm bodies to fill any open board spots. You are better off running 1-2 directors short rather than recruiting and landing a bad fit. Remember, you might have to live with a poor choice for 3 full years…

• Good volunteers do not automatically make good board members. It may be tempting to tap a loyal and successful volunteer for board service but each role requires different skills. You might need a strong leader to run your gala or a golf outing, but a board member must be collaborative and a good team player. Different roles require different skills.

• Are you reluctant to take a chance on a candidate you are not absolutely convinced will succeed? Consider installing a one year, two-way probationary period of board service. This clarifies you are offering a one-year board service trial period and that there will be a conversation in 12 months to evaluate fit, desirability, and next steps. If performance is satisfactory, then the full term of service begins. If there are problems on either side, or things are not working out for either or both parties, steps can be taken to rectify the situation. These can include removal or additional board training.


A nonprofit organization will flourish when its board is made up of members with a wide range of skill sets, experiences and ingenuity. It is important to take board recruitment seriously – as it can make or break a successful agency. If you need to take stock of your current board to determine who is your best future candidate, we’ve created a Board Profile Worksheet (link below) so you can assess each member’s strengths and skill sets. If you have a concern I did not address in this post, please comment below or send me your questions. Check back tomorrow for the next Common Nonprofit Challenge!

Assess board member’s skills and expertise