Identifying, Recruiting, and Onboarding New Board Members
Thursday, February 19, 2015
By John McConnell, Managing Associate of Bentz Whaley Flessner, and Bond Lammey, Senior Associate at Bentz Whaley Flessner
The most recent Nonprofit Fundraising Study affirmed that organizations
with active board engagement in fundraising are more likely to see
increased contributions (Nonprofit Research Collaborative, October
2014). How would you rate the stability of your current board? Do you
have a board succession plan? Are there candidates queued up to rotate
on once current members’ terms end?
Identifying, recruiting, and onboarding new board members are essential
steps to ensuring the long-term health and success of your nonprofit.
We recommend following these steps to identify, recruit, and onboard
the best board members for your organization:
Identifying New Board Members.
- First, identify the key criteria needed in board members.
- Areas on your current board that are lacking in
representation/diversity: geographic, demographic, or subject matter
- Capability to make or secure a principal gift level
- Other considerations (prerequisites, such as religious
affiliation, previous volunteer involvement, or chapter membership).
- Clarify expectations of board membership.
- Annual philanthropic donation amount, if applicable.
- Demonstrated interest in supporting your organization
or similar causes.
- Willingness to partner with senior leadership to
identify, cultivate, and solicit non-board members for leadership gifts.
- Search for potential candidates.
- Review lists of current donors who have made large
one-time gifts to your organization or who have significant cumulative
lifetime giving totals.
- Submit these names to a wealth screening vendor
and/or review previous screening data.
- For all prospects with returned capacity ratings at
your principal gift level, conduct research to determine if they can
meet the criteria and expectations outlined above.
- Ask each board member to identify 3–5 individuals that
they believe have interest in your organization and capacity to support
the organization at a principal gift level. Complete steps i and ii on
the names identified from this process.
- Identify five to ten nonprofits that are highly
influential in your region, and locate lists of their board members.
Look up all of these board members to see if they are donors to your
organization. If so, follow steps i and ii above.
Onboarding New Board Members.
- Create a list or packet of materials on names
identified and submit
to your board for review. The board should select those who can meet
the desired criteria and expectations to pursue for nomination.
- Cultivate prospective board members who have
limited involvement with
your organization 12–24 months ahead of the targeted nomination date.
- Schedule meetings with senior leadership
or current board members
with a prospective board member to evaluate the person’s interest in
your organization, willingness to become engaged initially in a
non-board way, and availability to dedicate his/her time to a volunteer
- Solicit an initial gift from the
prospective board member at the low
end of your major giving level to determine the person’s willingness to
support your organization.
- Based on the success of the steps above, ask
if his/her name could be
presented for possible nomination to the board.
Recruiting new board members in a structured, criteria-driven, and
intentional way will help you have board members who can make large
gifts and will be willing to persuade others to do the same. Remember
that the process described above will typically take 12–24 months to
identify, cultivate, and recruit new board members. Be persistent in
process and patient in results.
- Engage the board member(s) who helped recruit the new
member in the
onboarding/orientation process to provide continuity of the recruitment
- Conduct the onboarding/orientation weeks in advance of the
member’s first board meeting, preferably in the new board member’s
- Follow up.
- Have the board chair follow up with the new board
member a week after the new member’s first board meeting to obtain the
new member’s reactions to attending his/her first meeting,
understanding of roles, responsibilities, and expectations of board
members, and questions about your organization and the board.
- Have special communication from the president/CEO and
with the new board member 3 and 6 months after he/she joins the board.