Monday, June 21, 2010

Building a Board Recruitment Program

IF YOU WERE BUILDING A BOARD RECRUITMENT program from scratch, what would you make of it?  I think I'd start with two pieces of information:  a board job description and a criteria list for the skills and attributes I need around that board table.
The job description would give me most all the information I'd need to approach a prospect to discuss board service.  I'd consider it my script for the conversation.  It would include all the expectations my organization would expect of a board member and it would include what the board member could expect from the organization.
The criteria list would be my road map to the people I'd be sharing that job description with.  As I've written about in other posts (here, here and here) it's knowing what I've got to work with and what I need that sets me up for my search of the who's.  Without this data, I could just ask any passing stranger if she or he had interest in joining my board.  I could just paper the neighborhood with that job description and it wouldn't mean a thing.
If I were building a board recruitment program from scratch, I'd also want to think about what surrounds those two pieces of information -- what supports and reinforces them.  They're two pieces of an overarching program that includes several activities ranging from prospect identification to orientation to full engagement of new members into the work of the board.  Each of these activities requires a plan of attack and related materials.  I'd want to have that all thought out and in place.
For example, orientation is an important early opportunity to ground a new board member in the vision, mission and values of the organization.  It requires face-to-face discussion that's best supported with a facilities tour, staff meet-up, and reference manual of all key documents (including organizational documents, policies, financials, strategic plans, contact lists, and program info).
Full engagement of new board members requires that they receive an assignment right away and perhaps some mentoring from veteran board members.
So, here's your assignment:  take a look at your current board recruitment program.  If you were to rebuild it or build one from scratch, where would you start?

Photo: Tinker Toys from M & J: Character Hunters 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Prospecting for Board Members: Map That, Too!

IN MY LAST POST I WROTE ABOUT mapping your current board.  Let's go to the next step and think about how this same type of mapping can be used to identify skills and attributes needed to add to a board.   Your map might begin with a simple list of these skills and attributes -- a list that is drawn from discussions about your organization's vision, mission and values, from your strategic or long-range plan, from a board self-assessment and/or from writing a statement about what your ideal board would look like.
As I've written about here, this exercise sets you (and your nominating or board development committee) up for moving your search from the "what" to the "who" -- the people who might fill your skills/attributes requirements.
Some of your primary candidates might be found among your members, your volunteers, your corporate underwriters, and any number of people your organization interacts with every day.  But other prospects may be more removed...or not yet known.  Your map might consist of a set of concentric circles, with the inner most circle containing the names of prospects closest to the organization.  Each expanding outer ring contains people with less and less direct connection, but all this means is that you'll have to 1) use a wider network to learn about them and 2) invest in a longer period of cultivation.
Or your map might be a matrix with skills listed on the left-hand column and attributes in headers along the top.  Start filling in the matrix with prospects you know best (a prospect may be listed multiple times depending on how many of the criteria he/she meets -> that's a good sign).  Then move on to names you know less well.  The blank spaces left on your matrix represent the folks you don't know yet and you'll need to expand your networks to identify.
And what about those people you don't even know yet?   That's where the skills/attributes list is key, because it becomes the basis for asking your networks the question "Do you know some who meets these criteria and might be interested in our mission?"  And that's when your organization's network can grow exponentially.

Image:  2010 - February - NodeXL - ssm2010...from Marc_Smith

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"I Can See it Now!": Mapping Your Board

IF YOU WERE TO MAKE A MAP of the to make a map of the diversity, skills, attributes and networks each of your board members brings to your organization's table, what would it look like?  A board's combined talents form a profile that may be well-understood or barely perceived.  And we should all know that what a group thinks of itself may not be anything like what others might think.
For a number of years I've used, and encouraged my client organizations to use, a simple chart to inventory these important elements.  Yesterday, I sat with an executive director and the chairperson of her organization's nominating committee and watched them complete just such a chart.  They inventoried gender, race, age, profession/avocation, skills brought to the organization, how each person is active in the organization, and what each person can help the organization accomplish.
It revealed obvious characteristics (average age is about mid-50s to 60); it also revealed some not-so-obvious gaps, such as the under-utilization of some board members, while others are active to the point of burnout.  Even with the obvious stuff, it didn't quite hit home until it was seen on paper.
It also raised a question or two about why some folks were on the board in the first place.  
More than once the nominating committee chairperson exclaimed, "I can see it now!"  How board member talents fit together and complement each other is one very important byproduct of this exercise.
A quick scan of the chart told us that, going forward, the nominating committee will need to be more strategic about identifying future candidates who can bring several things to the table:  younger, of color, access to new/targeted networks, along with specific skills and/or interests that the organization needs.  
If you haven't done this type of assessment, I encourage you to try it -- it took us less than two hours to do it (including related conversations). 

Image:  The Conference Board Review.  The Identity Recession by Tony Spaeth.  Winter 2010.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Board Recruitment: Look for the What, Not the Who

BOARD RECRUITMENT IS SERIOUS BUSINESS.  Or it should be.  Now more than ever, our nonprofits need engaged, forward-thinking leadership.  Our nonprofits need board members who are willing to use a continual loop of strategy and feedback to define and shape mission, relevance and community connectedness.  To be content with board members who are ONLY interested in slices of an organization's mission is not enough.  Board members have to want to embrace the whole enchilada, because they understand that a nonprofit's impact is more than the sum of its parts.
Nominating or board development committees need to sharpen their recruitment skills to laser-like precision.  Recruitment no longer begins with the question, "who do we know?", but with "what skills or access do we need?"  If you don't know what you're looking for, you're liable to accept any who.  That worked decades ago when boards were merely extensions of wealthy social clubs.  There's no time for that nonsense anymore.
It's time to start making that list.  An organization's vision and mission statements, along with the strategic plan, are pretty much all the tools you'll need to develop a list of skills and attributes your organization needs around the board table.  Use your list to go shopping for prospects by working your networks (and the networks of others) to identify them.
This isn't easy work.  It's never-ending work, really.  But it's the life-force for your nonprofit.

Photo: My grocery cart is filing up. h964 from SouthernBreeze - "God bless...