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News & Press: Member Insights

Identifying, Recruiting, and Onboarding New Board Members

Thursday, February 19, 2015   (0 Comments)

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.
    1. Areas on your current board that are lacking in representation/diversity: geographic, demographic, or subject matter expertise.
    2. Capability to make or secure a principal gift level commitment.
    3. Other considerations (prerequisites, such as religious affiliation, previous volunteer involvement, or chapter membership).
  • Clarify expectations of board membership.
    1. Annual philanthropic donation amount, if applicable.
    2. Demonstrated interest in supporting your organization or similar causes.
    3. Willingness to partner with senior leadership to identify, cultivate, and solicit non-board members for leadership gifts.
  • Search for potential candidates.
    1. Review lists of current donors who have made large one-time gifts to your organization or who have significant cumulative lifetime giving totals.
      1. Submit these names to a wealth screening vendor and/or review previous screening data.
      2. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
Recruiting Prospective 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.
    1. 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 role.
    2. 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.
Onboarding New Board Members.
  • Engage the board member(s) who helped recruit the new member in the onboarding/orientation process to provide continuity of the recruitment and onboarding.
  • Conduct the onboarding/orientation weeks in advance of the new member’s first board meeting, preferably in the new board member’s space.
  • Follow up.
    1. 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.
    2. Have special communication from the president/CEO and board chair with the new board member 3 and 6 months after he/she joins 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.

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