No matter how fantastic your staff is, your nonprofit will never run at full speed without quality board members. Whether you have a problem member or a fantastic board chair who will term out in two years, NOW is the time to start actively building the board that will set your organization on the highway to success!
Tune in to Part 1 of Dolph’s presentation at Centerlink’s 2019 E-Summit to hear his tried and true practices for recruiting board members to achieve your goals. In this episode, he will touch on what you should include in your profile, and a fantastic check-list to start your search!
Listen in to Episode 144 Here!
Timestamped Highlights from Episode 144
(7:20) Annual recruitment campaigns vs. recruiting one or two people every few months.
(8:05) Why it is CRUCIAL to tell the absolute truth to candidates about board service with your organization.
(9:20) How you can test the commitment of prospective board members.
(10:45) How to recruit to fulfill your board’s goals.
(15:25) If you were ever wondering when you should start recruiting new board members…
(16:15) What you should be including in your recruitment profile.
(19:55) Why your board recruitment profile should describe the new member orientation process.
(23:00) Building a pool of candidates to approach about board service.
(24:35) A check-list of great places to start recruiting prospective board members.
Episode 144 Transcript
Dolph Goldenburg (00:00)
Welcome to the successful nonprofits podcast. I’m your host Dolph Goldenburg. A few months ago I had the pleasure of being a speaker at center links East summit. The summit brought nonprofit leaders together from throughout the country for a series of insightful and informative seminars. Now CenterLink’s leadership asked me to share an effective strategy for board recruitment and to say the least, I was thrilled to do it because a supercharged effective board is an essential component of any executive director’s success. Don’t get me wrong, a chief executive can likely still be successful even with a moderately dysfunctional board, but they could be so much more effective with a strong board. And the best part is that a truly effective board makes the work of your chief executive, your chief financial officer, and your chief development officer. So much easier as both a nonprofit consultant and in my nearly dozen years as a permanent executive director, I have been part of countless board recruitment campaigns and like a lot of people who have gotten good at this, I have learned how to recruit and build an effective board, but I’ve pretty much done it through trial.
And error. Early in my nonprofit career, I was part of a board recruitment campaign where we made some big mistakes. We brought someone onto the board who had all the right credentials. This person was well educated and articulate. They had a strong professional background and demonstrated commitment to our mission. On paper, this candidate was a winner, but once on the board that guy was a bomb thrower and nearly every single meeting he would make inappropriate jabs at board officers trying to bait them into a verbal altercation. He spread gossip about board members and did not respect the traditional boundaries between staff and board functions. Bringing him onto the board was an expensive lesson and fully vetting board members, making sure you really know who it is that you’re going to be bringing on. Now, of course, over the years I have used many of the lessons that I’ve learned to recruit some great board members.
One of these great board members that I can immediately think of is someone who is well qualified for board service. Despite not having deep pockets full of cash within her first six months on the board. She became actively involved in a committee, connected as to resources that help solve a seemingly intractable issue and raised about $10,000 in small gifts from dozens of donors. So if you’d like more great board members and fewer high maintenance ones, you will enjoy the first half of the center. Link E summit. Broadcast is now starting. All attendees are in listen only mode.
Good morning or afternoon and welcome to the center link 2019 East summit. My name is Donna Solomon Carter and I am the communications and outreach manager at center link. Today’s webinar is unlock your power to recruit great board members. Just a couple of housekeeping notes. We will keep everybody on mute just to keep down the background noise, but we’d love to have your interaction so if you’ve got questions, comments, feedback, please feel free to type it in the question box and we will address your needs and concerns as they pop up. Our moderator today is Ana Machado. Ana is the senior manager for strategic program development and is responsible for ensuring team efforts support the larger program and organizational goals for center link and its member network. I know oversees the development for all initiatives across Centerlink and its programs including strategic planning, program creation, program, budget, program delivery, evaluation metrics and reporting for program success and it has a master’s degree in public health management and policy as well as a background in program administration, public health research, and a BA in marketing.
Her career has been characterized by a strong commitment to advocacy and social justice. Her work has specialized in advanced programming geared toward prevention and outreach of racial minorities, LGBTQ communities, women and people of color. I am honored and pleased to work with you today. Ana. Thanks for being here. Thank you, Donna for such a wonderful introduction and welcome everyone to central links 2019 East and webinars series. The title of today’s webinar I’d like Donna just mentioned, is unlocking your power to recruit great board members and we will be discussing a couple of things. First off, we’ll be discussing how to implement effective systems for board recruitment. We’ll be discussing ideas on how to recruit a more diverse and inclusive board as well as hacks for more effective for recruitment. So without further ado, I would like to introduce today’s presenters, Dolph Goldenburg the Mark has been, has three decades of leadership with the LGBT plus community initially as an act up and queer nation activists.
Then transitioning to a professional leadership role at the turn of the century doll has served as an executive director of LGBTQ centers as well as an HIV supportive housing provider for the past five years. He has served the community as a consultant providing board development, strategic planning and interim intern services. His clients have included many central link members as well as other LGBTQ organization doll. Thank you so much for being here today. As always, it’s a pleasure to have you. And with that I will try to end the mic for you. Gracious intro. So I just want to start off by making sure that people are aware that we’re also recording this. I’m obviously, it’s going to be recorded by center link and that’s going to be used at the Centerlink website, but it’s also going to be on the successful nonprofits podcast. And so while I want everyone to feel free to ask questions, I am going to ask, please do not use the name of your center.
So we typically don’t do much editing. We do kind of what we call light editing. We typically cut about four or 5% of a podcast episode and editing and we typically don’t do very precise editing either. So, you know, please do not identify yourself if you are asking a question that will make it so much easier. As we move forward in turning this into a podcast episode as well. And so what we’re going to be talking about today is the board recruitment process. Let me start by saying that the single greatest successes and the single greatest mistakes that I have had has a manager and as an executive director have been the staff that I’ve hired. The second single greatest successes and single greatest mistakes that I have made have all been around the board and you know, great successes with your board.
Start with the board recruitment process. And that’s one of the reasons why I was super pumped and excited for Donna to invite me to present on this at the East summit. And so what we’re going to talk about today specifically, obviously our, our kind of the, the six key things, the first is identifying your board needs and your goals. Sometimes that may seem obvious, but we’re still gonna do a little bit of an unpacking on that. And then the second is going to be a, to really create your development or develop your recruitment profile if you know, if you’re not a hundred percent certain of what you’re looking for. And if you’re not communicating that to the right communities to ensure that you’re getting the right board members, it’s going to be difficult to get it. And then of course, as I had just kind of said, you’ve got to be communicating to the right communities.
And so that means really developing those relationship assets to build your candidate pools. Because if you don’t have a wide and diverse pool of candidates, you’re likely not going to end up with the board that you want. Now, a couple of other things we’re going to talk about today are creating your onboarding and orientation process. I’ve always believed that it’s very important that you create that process before you actually start recruiting board members, so that way you can share with board members what the prospect or prospective board members, what the process is going to be. Then of course, we’re going to get down to the nuts and bolts of how to build your application and how to really create a vetting process so that you can then move forward and implement your campaign. So let me also start by saying that I am not agnostic about board recruitment, about onboarding, and about governance.
I am not at all agnostic about it. I have strong opinions. Some people disagree with these opinions and I’ll share with you, these are folks who’ve also done great jobs of building boards. But as I think about this, when you’re talking about your board development, there is a path towards life and there’s a path towards death for your board and for your organization. And I feel very strongly that you’ve got to do some specific things in order to ensure that you have a vibrant, healthy, active board that is able to do all of the things that you need it to from the governance duty to fundraising to of course also supporting your chief executive and your organization’s mission. But I’ve got to start off just by saying I’m not agnostic now as we talk about me not being agnostic. Here are some things that I think are critically important.
And so I think these are some key principles that you’ve gotta be thinking about as you’re building your own board recruitment campaign. The first is,and this is something that a lot of organizations struggle with, do we have a once a year annual recruitment campaign or do we recruit onesies and twosies? So, Hey, I found this great person, let’s get them on the board now. And two or three months later I found another great person. Let’s get them on the board. Well, I am a firm believer that the path towards life is that annual recruitment campaign that you put all of your efforts into recruiting great people and you know if during the year you find onesies and twosies, great, get them involved in some type of leadership capacity or some committee, but don’t get them on the board yet. Just tell them, Hey, we’ve got an annual recruitment campaign coming up and we really hope that you’re going to apply.
The second key principle is that it is critically important that we tell our perspective board members the unvarnished truth about serving on the board. Now I will share with you, there’s a lot of boards out there that you know, put the nicest spin possible for prospective board members. They will say things like, Oh, we have an active committee process. And really what they mean is, you know, our finance committee meets twice a year and our governance committee meets once a year and they don’t really have an active committee process. Or they might say, Oh yeah, as as a board we get along really well and we don’t have a lot of drama, but what they’re failing to talk about are the, or is the one bomb thrower on the board and the two people who are completely and totally disengaged and not doing much, even if they’re attending the board meeting.
And so it’s really important to be upfront and honest with prospective board members about what they’re going to be walking into if they join the board. So that way they can make an informed decision and you know that’s also much that will make it much more likely for them to be active and engaged board members. And then the final piece that I’m just not at all agnostic about is I believe we must test the commitment of prospective board members. And so there are typically are two past that nominating committees will go down. One is saying, okay, has this person already demonstrated a commitment? Are they serving on a committee, have they spearheaded a special event, have they been volunteering with the organization for four or five years? And then the other path is helping for a commitment. You know this person, you know, and that’s one of the nominating committee says this person has not been terribly involved in the life of this organization at any point, but we’re going to put ’em on the board and hope that they really are going to be all about serving on our board and all about our organization once they get on it.
And so I just cannot say strongly enough, these are the things that I am not agnostic a ballot. I genuinely believe you’ve got to have that annual once a year recruitment campaign and that is a full core press. You have to be fully forthright both with your organization about what you need, but also with prospective board members. And then finally you have to feel quite confident that board members have a strong commitment to your mission and doing the work that’s necessary to serve on your board. So that first piece that I promised we would talk about is how to identify the needs and goals and that specifically the needs that you have for new board members as well as the goals that you have for the board itself. Because those board level goals are going to really drive to some extent the types of board members that you want onboard.
And so the first thing to do is sort of put together a gap analysis. And of course, this probably comes as a surprise to nobody who’s currently on this call. At the end of this podcast episode, I’m going to be sharing a URL. You can go there, you can actually download an Excel spreadsheet that will have a gap analysis. But you know, the gap analysis is everything from demographic information. So do you have as diverse and inclusive of a board as you want and where do you have those gaps? Specific skills. So, you know, typically you always think, yeah, we always need someone, I’m on the board who understands finance and accounting. We always need someone who understands law. And maybe as a lawyer, but there are some other things depending on, for example, what your strategic plan says or what your board goals currently are that may also drive some other skills and connections that you need on your board.
And so for example, you know, if you are about to launch capital, maybe you want to get someone on, on your board who has been a volunteer chair of a capital campaign before, does not mean that they will be the volunteer chair of your capital campaign. But wouldn’t it be nice to have someone on your board really who has done that before? Another example might be if you’re about to move into a new facility, wouldn’t it be great if you had someone on your board who was high up at a facility management organization or a, you know, high up in an organization that manages a significant amount of real estate. And so if you get someone like that on your board, they’re going to bring a whole new scope of experiences and connections and skills that will help drive your board forward.
The second piece is, I’ve kind of already said is to look at your strategic plan. What are your strategic goals over the next two, three and four years? Make sure that you are building the board, not the board necessarily that you need today, but the boards you’re going to need next year and the board that you will need in three or four years. Keeping in mind that most board terms are more than a year, most board terms are two or three years and in most boards you’re able to serve two or three term firms before you know you run into term limits. And so that’s really why you’ve got to be thinking about those longer term goals for your organization. Do not, however, forget the board goals. You know. So let’s say you do have a, an active and vibrant governance committee and you do have an active and vibrant development or fundraising committee, but your finance committee, one of your board goals is, Hey, we need to strengthen our finance committee.
We need to be having regular finance committee meetings and we need someone who really can help ensure that our board is doing its fiduciary and governance responsibility of looking at the, at the, the financial statements at working to ensure that there’s a good audit at reviewing what the internal control issues are, et cetera. So if that’s the case, then you probably in your next board recruitment cycle, Nita, really be out looking for some board members that can help strengthen your finance committee. Again, typically, you know you’re not looking for your next treasurer because ideally you’re not putting someone on your board and immediately making them an officer. But hopefully you are looking for one or two or depending how many people you have on your board, maybe even three folks with an expertise that can help your finance committee take it to the next level.
But that’s entirely based on your board goals. Now the fourth thing that you’ve got to be thinking about is you’re identifying your needs and gaps is one. What is your board leadership succession plan? I cannot tell you how many times I have worked with an organization and they say to me, our board president or our board chair turns out next year and or even terms out in two months or three months and do not have a clue about who’s going to replace that person. When we are looking at our current board members, we just don’t see the prospective board chair in our roster of current board members. So in these cases, those organizations in the unfortunate situation of really having to recruit a brand new board member with the intention that they’re going to be president in a year or less, and frankly that’s not really fair to your board and that’s not really fair to that person who you’re bringing on, even if they’re aware that that’s the case.
So also take a look out what your leadership needs are going to be. Do you have, for example, a board chair elect or a board chair nominee that’s in place? If you do, great, then you do not do not need to be thinking about filling that position in two years. But if you don’t and you know that you’re going to be looking for a new board chair in two years, now is the time to recruit two or three prospective board chairs, keeping a mind that people’s lives change. And not everybody is going to be in a place in three years when they’re ready to be your board chair. So you want to recruit two or three folks, frankly, with the understanding that in one year time one of those folks is going to step up and agree to be your board chair nominee.
Now this is true for all of your board leadership, whether that’s your board chair, a vice chair, a secretary or a treasurer. But it is especially critical for your, your vice chair, your chair, and your treasurer positions. So we’ve talked a little bit about identifying those needs and goals and you’re now at a point where you need to develop that recruitment profile. Now essentially, this recruitment profile is a document, ideally one page or less, that you are going to be sending out widely throughout the community. And we’re going to talk a little bit more about how you’re going to distribute it. But really this is sort of like your announcement of Tada. Our center is looking for new board members. And so as you think about this, there are frankly, four or five key areas that you definitely want in your recruitment profile.
The first is a paragraph that very quickly and briefly describes your organization, keeping in mind that you want people who’ve ideally have already had some level of commitment to your organization and familiarity with your organization. You don’t need a page on it. A paragraph should be fine if someone does not have a lot of information already about your organization that should, that paragraph of course should also link them to your website and other ways they can find more information. Now the second area that you want on there frankly, is the your own gaps and needs analysis. And so, you know, in your gaps and needs analysis, you’ve identified community representation that you want, you’ve identified experience, leadership skills, other hard skills like accounting, legal facility, facility, fundraising, marketing, et cetera. And then you’ve probably also identified some networks that you are hoping new board members are going to be representing, whether those are business networks, inclusive community networks, however that may look.
So you’re going to have a paragraph that specifically speaks to the gaps and needs of your board. So really what you’re saying is we have a special emphasis in this recruitment campaign this year for people that may have that help us fill the following gaps and needs. Now the next thing you’re going to do of course, is you’re also going to talk about the obligation of board service. And so the first thing we’ll talk about is the length of terms. And then of course we’ll talk about the number of meetings that the person’s expected to attend every year. Does your board meet quarterly, every other month, once a month? How often does your board meet and what’s the expectation? Not just also in terms of the number of meetings, but also the number of meetings that board members are supposed are expected to attend. And then do not forget the committee work.
So you’re going to tell folks about the board meetings themselves, but the work of your board should ideally be being done on the committee level. And so that means between between meetings, your committees will be meeting and so are you, do you have the expectation that your board members will be serving on one committee, on two committees? Well, is there an expectation that every board member will chair a committee and serve on an additional committee? Whatever that expectation is, you just need to put it out there in your recruitment profile. Now don’t forget to talk about your give or get most organizations do have give or get. Again, I’m not agnostic about most things and I’m a firm believer in having a give get, but make sure again that you’ve put that out there. If your gift get is $2,500 say it if you’re give get is $2,500 and a minimum give of $50 say that and then the last piece that you want to make sure board members understand is what the orientation process is going to look like.
That we’ll do a couple of things. First of all, it will help board members once again think, do I have the time or the bandwidth necessary to ramp myself up onto this Ford? But it will also give your perspective board members kind of this sense and a comfort of knowing that they’re not just going to be dropped into the deep end, attend their first meeting and expect to start swimming immediately as a board member, that they’re going to be given a pretty good orientation. Now the third thing that you want to put in this one page recruitment profile is a really clear explanation of your process for really recruiting and vetting prospective board members. So obviously you want the timeline, so when do you have to get board applications in by, and don’t worry, we’re going to talk about board applications, but when do you have to get board applications in by when?
What weeks will interviews be done and when will decisions be made? When will board members begin, when will those new board members begin serving their first term? If you’re planning as part of that process to have an open house so the prospective board members can come in and meet other new existing board members and the management team. When is that open house going to be? Will there be more than one open house? And then finally, of course the application itself. So, you know, you definitely want to put together as thorough as possible, as thorough of an application as possible. And we’ll be linking a sample application in the webpage that we are setting up specifically for this East summit training and also for the podcast episode. So you can actually download an application. You can ma, it’s in word so you can modify it for your own needs, but some things to think about as you’re working through that application, right.
You know, is obviously you want to get demographic information. You also want to get skill information, connections. What communities do they have connections in, what professions do they have connections. And I believe that, a best practice on doing that application is not a paper application and is also not a PDF or were documented, sent and people fill in. I often think the easiest thing to do is to put that application into a Google form or survey monkey or question pro or, or some online platform like that, which then allows people to just fill it in based on a link. And then it easily allows you to download absolutely every single application that you’ve received. And then the last thing that you want to do is you also want to make sure that you’re up front as possible with the SWAT for your board and for your organization.
What are its strengths? What are its challenges? What does the future hold for this organization? Now, keeping a mind that this is a very public document, I do also say, you know, that it’s really to be as upfront as possible. This is not necessarily a place to hang all of your dirty laundry, but if there’s some dirty laundry that’s already public, probably not a bad idea to own it in this recruitment profile. So now let’s talk about building that candidate pool. So, and, and, and this is the pool of folks that you’re also going to be sending that recruitment profile to as well as some of the larger community networks. Will you be sending it as well? The first thing to do is to talk to your community gatekeepers. And so, and this should really be plural community gatekeepers of your communities, plural. And so, you know, make sure that you’re going out into your talking to key people who know a lot of other people.
Make sure that you have conversations with current and former board members. It’s always fair to say, Hey, who do you know? I actually have one client organization. They did something that I thought was awesome. They said, Hey, at the next board meeting we need every single board member to bring in 10 names of prospective board members. Not everybody did, but they did walk away from that. But everybody brought in some names and they walked away from that board meeting with dozens of prospective board members who are now a part of the candidate pool. Don’t forget to reach out to your volunteers so you don’t forget you’re asking your volunteers. Not only, Hey, are you at a point in your life where you’re interested in serving on the board, but you’re also asking your volunteers, who do you know who might be great to serve on the board?
So they may know someone who volunteered a couple of years ago or as a current volunteer. They may know someone who is a client or former client and they say, Hey, this would be a great person to serve on the board. This is also a perfect time to cultivate your funders, your major donors and your event sponsors. Reach out to them and ask them, Hey, is there anyone that you can think of that we should be having conversations with? As we’re looking at filling our board as we’re working on building a really inclusive board campaign? You’d be surprised. A lot of funders will actually give you some really good recommendations of, Oh, you know, you should talk with Jane, or you should talk with Ted. How’d they also make, give you some recommendations on other gatekeepers and other organizations that you should be making sure that you’re sending this recruitment profile to now, just as you’re going to talk to event sponsors, this is also a good time to reach out to business resource groups, sometimes called employee resource groups at corporations and, and also do not forget those professional services firms.
So really large law firms, accounting firms and consulting firms often also have LGBTQ ERG and BRGs make sure that you’re reaching out, even if you have never had a relationship with these ARGs or BRGs before. This is a great way to start to build that relationship. What you do is you reach out to find out who the chair for example of, you’re the largest law firm in your town. You know, the, the, the chair of their ERG. Or for example, you know, if you’re in Camden, New Jersey where Campbell soup is, you find out who the chair of that BRG is and you just reach out to them and you say, Hey, can we have a brief conversation? I’d love to send you the recruitment profile and see if your BRG has any members that might be a good fit for our board. Now I’d also suggest that you not forget about LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a great way for you to leverage everybody else that you know, whether that is a board member and I’m sure everyone on this call is probably already connected, every other board member within their organization. But it’s a great way to see everyone who’s in your network, in your board’s network, in your volunteers network. We’ve already spoken a little bit about professional services firms like law firms and accounting firms. If what you know is you need a lawyer, your board, or you need an accountant on your board, you know, or for example, you know, if you need a project manager on your board, then definitely reach out to some professional service firms, talk to their ERG and their BRGs. If you do not already have a relationship, don’t also forget those associations. And so, you know, I’d mentioned, if your board really has a gap in facility management, I’d be willing to bet you that there’s a facility management association and almost every major city in the U S same thing with human resources.
You’ll often hear a board say, Hey, we really need to find a board member with expertise in human resources. Not that we want them to cross from the line of cross over the line of governance and move into management. But it sure would be nice if we had someone on the board who really understood HR. So then you reach out to your local society for human resources management, which is an association for HR professionals. So please do not forget, make sure that you not just send that recruitment profile to associations that are helping to target some of your gaps and some of your needs, but also reaching out to them individually. It’s a great way to grow your organization’s network. Now if you’re in a significant, if you’re in a relatively large city, there is probably a network of LGBTQ DS and, or a network of board chairs, always feel free to reach out to other LGBTQ EDS or other or EDS of other progressive organizations and just ask the question, Hey, do you have any former board members that have turned out that you really wish could have stayed on your board for another four or six years?
And if the answer is yes, ask for that introduction, try to really start to cultivate that person so that you can get them on your board. And then finally, a lot of cities, have board training programs that are, put on either by their local United way or by their community foundation. That’s also a really good source for board members, especially individuals who maybe are early career professionals or folks who have not served on boards before. So I hope that this slide has been really helpful as you’re thinking about how to build your candidate pool.
Now that you’ve heard the first half of our presentation, what one action item can you implement in your next board crewman campaign? Because if you’re like me, you listen to a lot of podcasts with some great information, but it is important that we go from listener to implement her and I would love to hear what your one action item is and how you are implementing it. So reach out to me on LinkedIn, Facebook, or our firstname.lastname@example.org I really do respond to everyone who reaches out, so don’t be shy and please do not forget that you can visit successful nonprofits.com to download your editable board gap analysis. Finally, if you have found this episode helpful, please share it with a member of your board or your executive team. Sharing the episode will help your team members be on the same page that you are on as you start to build your next board recruitment campaign. That dear listeners, is our episode for this week. I hope you have gained some insight that will help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.
I am not an accountant or attorney and either I or the Goldenburg Group group provide tax, legal or accounting advice. Cause material has been provided for informational purposes only, is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified licensed professional about such matters.