Recruiting and Retaining the Right Board Members for your Nonprofit Board- Part I

Detective by olarte.ollie via Flicker

I’m excited to get into more detail to help you recruit and retain the right board members!  Last week I gave an overview of certain steps your board can take to ensure that you are recruiting and then retaining candidates who are the best fit for your nonprofit board.  This week, we will speak in some more detail about Step 1 = Assess.  When conducting an initial assessment of your board, on a broad scale, it is important to determine the status of your organization as well as to decide the specific needs of your board.

It is important to determine the current STATUS of your organization.  If you need guidance in categorizing or determining the size of your nonprofit, Karen Zapp does a nice job of defining nonprofit organizational sizes at http://pkscribe.com/nonprofit_news/votes-tallied-classifications-of-small-medium-large-nonprofits-set.

I recommend using the below 3 examples to begin to think about the status of your organization and board.

  1. Are you a startup Nonprofit Organization (NPO)?  This will require your board to function more as a “Founding Board” which requires different efforts from your board members than an existing, veteran board.  Your founding board may be expected to do more of the work to create the organizational structure of the NPO in collaboration with the executive director.  A veteran board would not have as many of these expectations as the foundation or blueprint of the organization has been established.
  2. Are you a small NPO?  Similar to a founding board, the board of a small organization may have to participate more often in taking steps toward actions such as creating policy and procedures or creating ‘working committees’ to complete work on necessary projects that the organization needs.  Such work will help the organization to reach their set goals.
  3. Are you a veteran NPO (larger is size and budget and have existed for a longer period of time)? The board of a veteran NPO should be more stable and have routine practices for their meeting schedules, fundraising events, work with partner organizations and their marketing in the community.  Such boards may not require as much from their board members in terms of ‘hands-on work’.  Some veteran boards will recruit board members who have particular status in the community or who will strictly provide funding to the organization.


Some boards use a theory similar to the below table to determine their board member characteristics.  How do you assess your board members’ characteristics?



Another important step in assessment is to determine your organization’s and your board’s NEEDS as well as to determine the priorities.  It is helpful to keep in mind that the purpose of a nonprofit board is to govern rather than manage.  Doing some level of strategic planning will assist your organization in determining your current needs and priorities.  It is also important to consider the members currently on your board.  What are their skills and strengths?  What type of individuals would you like and need to have on your board to make up for skills and strengths that are currently absent?  Do you need people with educational experience, people with financial expertise, someone who is well respected in the community who can assist with fundraising, etc.?  As you continue to think about your organization’s needs, determine how your board members, as individuals as well as the whole group, will support the stated goals.

I hope this has helped you begin to think about where your organization and your board is at.  We will next review where you want to be.   I look forward to speaking with you next week when we will review Step 2 – Plan.

If you would like to read the previous installment of Recruiting and Retaining the Right Board Members for your Board, please go to Introduction.


Please read the updated version of “Recruit and Retain a Strong Nonprofit Board of Directors in 2014 – Step 1“.


Photo credit to:

“Detective” by Ollie Olarte via Flickr.

Jeanne Ward is a Consultant and Personal Strategist who brings her knowledge of psychology, strategy and personal fulfillment to her current work. Jeanne started her career by helping mentally ill inmates to ‘get their lives back on track’ as they integrated back into society from jail in NYC. She leveraged this experience with a Social Work degree to manage teams who were supporting people trying to move back into the workforce. She later lived in Atlanta, GA and Frankfurt, Germany where she began consulting with nonprofit organizations to guide them on their strategy, volunteer development, and organizational development as well as to support the development of their leaders and board of directors. After the jolt of a divorce, Jeanne found herself doing a lot of soul-searching. Digging deep, she arrived at a new-found appreciation for herself and the world around her. This journey taught her that when we start with improving ourselves, the benefits multiply. Jeanne realized that her strengths of strategic thinking, relationship building, and implementation planning could be combined into her ongoing passion of personal leadership. Hence, her personal strategy work was born. Jeanne helps men and women between the ages of 35 and 55 who are fed up with their corporate jobs to create fulfilling professional and personal lives through the development of a personal strategic plan. This work ensures that her clients identify their professional and personal goals as well as create a plan to make those goals a reality. Jeanne is also the Executive Director of the Atlanta Road Trotters Kid’s Running Club, a nonprofit organization that provides a platform for children to build a foundation of running health and fitness which leads to a better connection to the organized running community as well as a strong foundation of Discipline, Self-Esteem, Respect and Team Work. She has also co-authored a workbook on networking, founded and organized the National Association of Social Workers-Georgia-sponsored ‘Social Service Career Network’ and organized a summit for the National Alliance for Mentally Ill attended by over 100 organizations from 6 Atlanta counties. Previously, she sat on the board of NASW GA as their Secretary as well as on the board of NAMI GA/DeKalb as their Co-President, was a senior consultant for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and helped to run a capital campaign for an independent school. Jeanne has an MSW from Hunter School of Social Work (City University of New York), an MA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York) and a BA in Psychology from Emory University. Jeanne lives in Atlanta with her ten-year-old son.
  1. Wayne Hellquist Reply
    Very helpful information regarding the recruitment of prospective board members. I always encourage my clients to create a skills/experience/competencies matrix and use this to assess current board member attributes and to determine gaps in the makeup of the board. Furthermore, when assessing the gaps in the skills and experience of the current board and identifying the desired skills and experience of prospective board members, it is helpful to identify what the core strategies in the strategic plan are and recruit individuals who complement the plan. There is sometimes a tendency to recruit to fill current gaps rather than future needs.
    • admin Reply
      Thank you Wayne. I like what you said about creating a skills/experience/competencies matrix for your clients. That must assist them in reaching their board's goals. I agree that there is sometimes a tendency to recruit to fill current gaps rather than future needs. We are all sometimes just treading water to keep are heads above it! That is great that you are there to help nonprofits to float calmly rather than quickly tread the water!

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