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How to Find the Right Board Members for Your Nonprofit

Finding the right candidates to serve on your nonprofit board can be tricky, to say the least. When your nonprofit has already curated a strong, committed team of board members, bringing on somebody new can upset the balance of things—and set your search right back at square one.

By following these five proven tips, your nonprofit board will be primed to bring on new members that are ready to realize the organization’s mission.

1. Decide upon either an open or targeted candidate pool

When looking to bring on new members to your nonprofit board, you have two options: you can open the floor to any and everybody, or you can research and hand-pick individual candidates.

Limiting the candidate pool to a chosen few ensures your board isn’t encumbered with a slew of prospects, many of whom may not be a great fit. Asking a candidate personally also shows them that the board is interested in them for specific reasons, while also demonstrating that the nonprofit is a thoughtful and considerate place to work. Conversely, opening the pool to any number of candidates can lead to surprising and often positive outcomes. After all, a board can’t choose a strong, qualified candidate who they don’t even know exists.

Choose the approach that makes sense for your board before sorting the candidate pool for a smoother, simpler decision-making process.

2. Championing diversity in the hiring process

A diverse panel of board members enables a variety of fresh perspectives. Having a wider array of lived experiences across your nonprofit board gives you more insight into specific demographics. Potential donors may note a lack of diversity in a nonprofit’s leadership as a telltale sign that the nonprofit’s goal does not have them at heart—thereby dissuading them from donating.

When deciding on new board members, ensure your board is checking for bias in the decision-making process so as to bring on more diverse candidates. If your board lacks diversity, identify strong candidates from diverse backgrounds and reach out to them to show that your nonprofit takes addressing its diversity problem seriously.

3. Consider any potential conflicts of interest

Before you make any offers, make sure you know the ins and outs of the candidate that your board intends to ask. If this person has a previously existing relationship which may introduce a conflict of interest to your nonprofit’s operations, your board should ask itself: is bringing them onboard really worth the risk? If some conflict of interest does exist yet the board is still keen to hire the candidate, perform an assessment of the severity of the risk, then ask yourself again whether the liability is worth it.

4. Assess whether the candidate can meet the position’s workload

Take stock of everything that working on your nonprofit board entails. If a candidate shows interest in joining you but has a number of other pressing engagements in their life, it’s likely they may not be able to devote the amount of time your board needs to operate effectively. After all, no matter how effective a candidate’s time management skills are, everyone has a limit.

5. Choose who should ask your chosen candidate

Once your board has decided upon an exciting candidate to bring into the fold, you need to determine who should make the ask. Big changes can be daunting, but when the board member asking a candidate shares views or cultural perspectives with them, or even just has a certain way with words, taking the plunge to join your nonprofit can become an even more exciting prospect.

Following these five useful tips empowers your nonprofit board to optimize your member search process. Challenging as it may be, having an effective search approach in place will enable your team to hit the ground running in doing what it does best: servicing your community, and bringing positive change to the world.

This post was inspired by the LinkedIn for Nonprofits Blog article “How to Manage a Hybrid Nonprofit Workforce Effectively,” authored by Leo Pedraza.

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