Who Should You Put On Your Board In 2018? 

Every organization is a reflection of its leaders. The more capable and committed any leadership team is, the more successful the nonprofit. Recruiting board members is a crucial step in cultivating a leadership team that inspires volunteers and accomplishes your agency’s goals. Highly regarded consultant and researcher Jim Collins recognized this years ago when he wrote in his book, Good to Great:

Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats.

Some executive directors are out recruiting new candidates all year long, even when they have no immediate opening. If you think you can wait on this – you are mistaken. Don’t wait until all the good candidates are taken. Regardless of what you need on the board, you should be recruiting board members all year long. Good candidates may be serving on other boards so you’ll need to recruit them while they serve out their term elsewhere. You can achieve much more by taking time to find highly qualified “superstars” that will elevate your board to optimum impact.

So, how should you do it? I am a firm believer that your strategic plan should be your guide when sourcing candidates. You will always want people with good judgment, wisdom, critical thinking skills, and a demonstrated passion for your agency’s mission, but you may also need those with special skills or knowledge to help your board succeed.

Let’s try to widen your search net for recruiting board members. This list will help you think out of the box and also avoid simply recreating the same board you have today. Here are some specific profiles or you to consider:

Profiles For Board Candidates


• Story Teller:  Donors love to hear moving stories. One compelling success story will move hearts much more than a long list of statistics. People respond more to stories they can relate to, understand, and empathize with.

• HR/OD Professional – If your agency is big enough, you will benefit from having an HR professional on the board. Look for ones with a special skill in Organizational Development. They can navigate through change management processes and employee issues. This type of HR professional can walk though an office and sense how the culture and demeanor are in your agency.

• Mission-Driver: Seek a candidate who will enthusiastically tell your story. Someone with little connection to the mission will not be helpful. Each director can and should be a face of your agency to help with networking, introductions, etc.

• Attorney: Every board should have an attorney to help you avoid legal trouble. They typically are clear, analytical thinkers and can help in many ways beyond purely legal matters.

• Business Owner  In addition to reading and interpreting financial reports, having business owners on your board brings several additional helpful skills. Figuratively speaking, they can pull themselves out of the organization and work “on it” rather than just “in it”. Business owners can both zoom in to look closely details and zoom out to appraise the agency’s big picture, its future, and the environment it operates in.

• CPA – A key spot, a board needs the guidance of a competent CPA to ensure funds are properly accounted for, disbursed, and managed. Working with an outside auditor, your CPA can help you avoid many, many snags – some legal and some just pesky.

• Social Media Manager – This position is highly sought in today’s digital landscape. You will want a true social media specialist and not just a marketing manager. Those two jobs are quite different and require different skills.

• Marketing Manager – Adept marketing skills help your agency tell its story in compelling ways.  Those with a marketing background can help you establish a clear, unique identity online so you can leverage your agency’s reputation for all its worth.

• The Missing Piece – Was there one obvious weakness with your board this past year? Now is the time to recruit someone who can fill that gap. If your board is overly weighted towards one demographic, background, or skill, you should try to broaden your board’s scope  by filling the hole with someone who balances out your board.

• Truth-teller – Do you have directors who will speak the truth regardless of consequences? Boards and leaders need honesty. A director who can respectfully disagree (and cite why) is a valuable resource.

• Other EDs – Have you considered adding another non-competing Executive Director to your board? Who better to understand your situation than someone who also lives it?

• Subject Matter Experts – Do you provide special services to your clients? If so, you may want to add someone with expertise on this service onto your board. This member should be able to assess the effectiveness of your programming to see if you are getting the desired results.

Finally, I suggest you not fill out your allotment of directors. Keep one director spot open in case the need for some new specialty, or some superstar candidate surfaces. You will be glad you kept that spot open.

With government funding up in the air, people being more cautious about making donations, and funding courses becoming increasingly selective and inquisitive, you simply cannot afford to have a mediocre board. Agencies that spending little time thinking about the qualifications and fit of candidates are shooting themselves in the foot. You need to find superstars with the right set of skills and experiences if you really want to achieve your mission.

Dealing with difficult board members?