Friday, August 20, 2010

Board Recruitment: Still Missing the Mark

LET'S FACE IT -- IF FINDING COMMITTED, DYNAMIC AND FORWARD-THINKING board members was easy, you wouldn't be reading this post.  And I wouldn't have written about board recruitment as much as I have (see here, here, here, and here to list a few of the dozen or so posts I written on this topic).  I'm not the only one writing about it -- there are dozens of articles and book chapters devoted to it and plenty of workshops and webinars (OK, these are webinars I developed for NYS ARTS) available.  I like to think we might be making some headway on understanding that board recruitment is an ongoing process made up of interlocking pieces.  And, indeed, we are.
Nevertheless, I was struck when a nonprofit leader in a focus group I conduct recently declared that, in her community, most nonprofits had no clue what the role of the nominating committee was and no understanding of how important this committee was to the long term health of their organizations.  Several of her colleagues heartily agreed.  This remark had obviously struck a chord with the rest of the group...and it did with me.  This was a community not unsophisticated in nonprofit board work, yet this seemed to be a deep and long-standing issue.  I was disappointed that I had to steer their conversation back to the subject of the focus group -- I would have liked to explore this issue further with them.
So, perhaps we can explore it together here.
I suppose that part of the reason why organizations aren't implementing new approaches to board recruitment is that old habits die hard.  An organization that's been used to tapping recruits from a tight network of friends and associates will likely be reluctant to search too far beyond these networks.  Organizations that condone the pre-election scramble of a nominating committee can become hostages to these committees or the recruits they bring to the board room.  Boards and nominating committees that operate from a mindset that there isn't anyone who wants to join their ranks will undoubtedly fulfill that prophecy (they're the ones who -- with heavy sighs and shrugging of shoulders -- repeatedly re-elect themselves, because "we can't find anyone to replace us"). But, wouldn't you think, that precisely because board work is so challenging boards would be welcoming new approaches to recruitment?

Photo:  On Target from caruba

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