You should already have laid the groundwork of an effective and responsive recruitment strategy by:
When a vacancy arises, it is time to put your plan into action.
When the time comes to install a new board member, you need to consult your prospect list to determine who would be the best match for the job. It is important that the decision is based on what is best for the board and the group.
Don't think that because board members are volunteers you should be grateful for any old dingbat who agrees to join up. All groups should have a screening policy and process for prospective board members. Ask for a CV and references. Ask around. Ask the candidate:
Sometimes friends and acquaintances want to be involved. This should not be the only reason for selection to a very important and responsible position. You should already have a list of the skills and expertise your group is in search of and this should be adhered to closely as you make your selection. You should also have firmly in mind both your group's mission statement and the need to balance the board and include a variety of voices; recruiting individuals from a wide variety of careers and backgrounds will make your board well-rounded and more representative of your organisation's membership and the wider community.
Every organisation needs a sufficient range of expertise to accomplish its organisation's mission. At the same time, attempting to cover all possible bases with a board member will lead to an unworkably large board. Try to maximise the board's effectiveness by ensuring that each member has more than one skill.
Another way to broaden the skills base of your team is to create advisory committees, as discussed above, who agree to provide specialist advice pro bono. Advisory group members can make a significant contribution to your groups without having to commit to attending regular meetings.
You should now have in mind at least one or two people who you consider would be a perfect fit for your board. Now comes the hard part – the ask.
It can be disheartening to have gone to all the trouble of carefully identifying and selecting suitable candidates only to have them turn you down when you offer them a place on the board. To minimise the chances of a knock-back, you should keep in mind the following strategies.
The needs of the prospective board member should also be considered in your approach. You need to be upfront about what will be asked of them and what the board experience can offer them in return.
You should also be prepared to be open about your group and its board. Offer prospects a copy of the board members' job description, policies, minutes of past meetings, newsletters, etc. and give them the telephone numbers of existing board members they may want to discuss their potential role with.
Once you have decided on a board member, and they have agreed for their name to be put forward, they need to be formally nominated and installed.
Your group's constitution or rules should detail the rules and procedures. Generally, board members are elected by the group's members each year at the Annual General Meeting (details about nominees will usually be sent to voting members beforehand). However, they can also be added during the year to fill any vacancies that arise. Some organisations use a structured nomination form, others are more informal, with names being forwarded to the recruitment committee, which makes recommendations to the full board.
Once a new board member has been approved, you should make contact to confirm that they are willing to take up the role. Once they have confirmed their acceptance you should send a letter confirming the appointment and congratulating them on their selection. You should also provide them with information about when meetings will be held, other activities and functions that are coming up, and how and when their orientation will take place. More information about orientation and induction is contained in the Developing an effective induction process help sheet.
This help sheet the third in a series of four. You should now read the Board succession checklist.