You should already have:
You now need to develop a pool of potential candidates. These people should not only have the required skills but should also care deeply enough about your group's mission to make a significant investment of their valuable time and personal resources in the group.
It may be a good idea to set up a recruitment or governance committee (if you don't already have one) to manage the process. However, all board members, the chief executive, ordinary members of the organisation and even staff can also be involved in recruitment.
Look broadly and keep the process active throughout the year, even when there are no current vacancies.
Potential candidates can come from a huge variety of places. Think broadly about where your next great board member might be hiding. Prospects could include:
You can also search for prospects by:
Some boards have advisory committees, which provide specialist advice when needed. These committees make good holding pools for prospective board members, enabling existing members to see them in action and giving them a chance to understand your group and how it works.
Recruiting from committees and encouraging potential board members to start as committee workers is a form of board apprenticeship.
You should try to give potential board members responsibility for specific projects that will show you their skills in planning, evaluation, and broader governance issues. As a committee member they will be able to clarify their commitment to the group and discuss whether they would like to become more involved in the future. It also allows the group to evaluate their potential at a relatively low-risk level.
Another way to search for prospective board members is to use the internet. Use the free Board Matching Service for community and not-for-profit organisations.
Remember you will need to screen your prospective board members as you would any other volunteer to ensure they fit the needs of your group and to see whether they're competent, whether they get along with people, whether they are trustworthy, whether they have the skills you're looking for and whether they fit the position description.
If you have specific skills you are looking for you might consider approaching a executive search company to ask them if they will help you out pro bono. Many companies are happy to contribute their professional services free or cut-price for not-for-profit organisations.
There are a number of ways you can encourage others to get involved in your group:
Once prospects have been identified the governance or recruitment committee should create a file for each of them, outlining their contact details and specific skills. The files should be regularly updated to ensure you have all the information you need on hand when a board vacancy arises.
This ongoing process of prospect identification and selection will mean that when the time is right to appoint a new board member, the hard work will already have been done.
Once you have built a prospect list, you need to start using it – even if you don't have a current board vacancy. You should sound out your prospects as soon as possible and try to get them involved in the group.
Be upfront about your intentions but don't be too pushy. Try to make your approaches as personal as possible. If someone says they are not interested, don't try to harass them into submission. A board member who has accepted a position merely out of guilt is unlikely to be wholeheartedly committed to their role.
However, don't write off a prospect who appears too busy to be involved at the moment. Keep in touch and it may be that a few months down the track their circumstances may change sufficiently for them to be able to commit sufficient time to your group.
As the relationship develops, invite prospects to undertake one-off voluntary tasks that suit their interests and expertise. If appropriate, ask them to join one of your board's committees.
This help sheet the second in a series of four. You should now read Selecting the right board members.