Better recruitment makes for better boards

By Regenia Bailey / Guest Column

Many boards appoint their nominating committees to identify and recruit new board members this time of year. Being thoughtful and strategic in recruiting new members helps ensure that the board has the necessary skills and community connections to strengthen the organization’s work.

Identifying prospective board members

An organization should look first to its board committees and supporter database for possible board candidates. It makes sense to draw new board members from a pool of people who have shown interest and commitment to the organization through their work on a committee, by attending an event, or by volunteering or making a financial contribution. These individuals are likely candidates for even deeper involvement with the organization.

As your board begins recruitment, consider the skills and community connections that are currently around the board table. Then, examine the strategic plan and consider the work the organization has ahead of it. Determine what board member skills and capabilities will be necessary to accomplish this work. If there are gaps in the skills and connections that the board will need, strategic recruitment can help. In examining the list of prospective board members, identify – and then actively recruit – those candidates who bring the skills and connections that the board will need in the coming year.

Diversifying your supporter lists

It’s difficult to develop a diverse board if your organization has relatively homogenous committee and supporter lists. Therefore, throughout the year, your organization should work to expand its networks by connecting with people throughout the community. Reach beyond board members’ networks to build committees and look for volunteers and supporters. As the organization’s networks grow and become more diverse, so does the pool of possible board members.

If your organization doesn’t currently have efforts in place to build connections throughout the community, begin them now. Use the opportunity of board recruitment to network and meet new people. Throughout the upcoming year, develop your organization’s relationship with them by inviting them to events and volunteer opportunities.

Building the team

An effective board should be greater than the sum of its parts. Even as the board brings on people who have necessary skills, orientation and education are necessary to help members understand the best ways to connect their skills to their board roles and responsibilities. Board retreats or planning sessions provide opportunities for members to get to know one another’s communication styles and learn to work together.

Your board’s recruitment cycle can affect how well the board works together. Organizations with an ongoing recruitment cycle that constantly introduces new members to the board may have a more difficult time melding individuals into a strong and well-functioning whole. Bringing new members onto the board once a year can help build its cohesiveness.

As your board moves into its next nominations cycle, think strategically about the skills and connections that it needs to do its best work in the upcoming year. If you find that your organization struggles to recruit people with different perspectives to the board table, embark on conscious and consistent efforts to broaden the organization’s networks and connections throughout the community.

Future nominating committees will thank you for expanding their list of prospective board members, and your organization will benefit from the increase in community awareness of its work that these expanded networks help provide.

Regenia Bailey is the founder and owner of Bailey Leadership Initiative. Contact her through her website at