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Get Strategic About Board Recruitment

by Guest Blogger

JeffWahlstromThis post was authored by Jeff Wahlstrom of Starboard Leadership Consulting.

If you want to build a stronger board, you need to recruit board members today who can help the organization achieve its strategic goals tomorrow. Start your recruitment process by pulling out and reviewing the priorities in your strategic plan. With the plan in front of you, get focused on what the future may hold for your organization and consider together what skills, abilities and experience you will need around your board table in the future.

If you don’t have a relevant and up-to-date strategic plan in place, then take the time to engage the board and staff in a discussion about where the organization is heading and what kinds of issues you anticipate you’ll be facing in the next 3-5 years. This is a great discussion to have with the board anyway, but it is essential before you start the recruitment process.

As the first step in this discussion, I suggest that boards spend time answering this question:

“Knowing what kinds of issues we are going to be facing in the coming years, what kinds of experience, skills and abilities are we going to need around the board table?”

Capture the responses on a flip-chart, and be sure to keep the focus on experience, skills and abilities and not on naming specific individuals. Then, when the list is complete, ask the group to help identify the top three priorities for the year. A good discussion is sure to follow, and the skills and abilities you are going to want in your new board recruits will start to emerge.

Believe it or not, by narrowing down the profile(s) of your potential board members and getting specific about the attributes you seek, you can actually make the recruitment process easier. The example I often use involves my mother-in-law and her good intentions. If my mother-in-law goes out to buy me a birthday gift, I am likely to get something nice, but it probably won’t be something that I would have selected for myself (a tie with cartoon characters on it, for example). I increase the odds of success dramatically if I say, “I would love a new dress shirt, and here is my size.” Of course, what she purchases will be less of a surprise, but shopping has become easier for her, and I’m more likely to get something that I’ll enjoy. The same is true when looking for board members (though avoid comparing them to shirts and ties!). Be specific about the skill-set you are seeking, and you’ll be much more likely to get it.

I have seen boards truly transformed by starting each year’s recruitment process with this approach. You’ll begin to see the benefit in year-one, but by year two and three you’ll see your board rising to a level that you may not have ever thought possible.

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About the Author

Jeff Wahlstrom is a guest blogger for MANP and President of Starboard Leadership Consulting, a management consulting firm that provides board governance, strategic planning, executive transition, and leadership and team development services to nonprofit organizations in Maine. You can reach Jeff at (207) 992-4407 or

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