10 nonprofit board recruitment tips

Nonprofit boards play several important roles. Board members are responsible for guiding an organization’s strategic direction, strategizing fundraising efforts, and more. This is why it is vital to be thoughtful when choosing new members.

Before beginning a search for new board members, it’s beneficial for an organization to consider the characteristics of an ideal board. To gain insight into this process, we spoke to several members of the Antidote partner network, made up of more than 300 diverse health nonprofits and patient advocacy groups. Below are some tips they shared — read on to learn more.

How to recruit board members for a nonprofit organization

1. Determine the ideal composition of the board.
A nonprofit board should be diverse in gender, age, race, background, and skills, especially if the organization is establishing its first members. Making sure that those that are appointed have complementary experience to one another and are comfortable implementing processes from scratch will reduce friction and be an aid to the organization as it scales.

2. Decide on the number of board members.
While the average board has 16 members, it is not necessary for every board to be this size. American Nonprofits warns against creating a board that is too small or too large, but each organization will need to consider their needs to decide what the ideal size is. The optimal size is one that gives the organization enough expertise and experience to run things smoothly, but also doesn’t create more work than the staff can handle.

3. Work with potential candidates first.
To help determine if a person is a good fit for the board, it can be helpful to have them first serve on a committee or volunteer for the organization. This can help illustrate their strengths and weaknesses and determine if they would be a prime candidate for expanded responsibilities.

4. Consider the organization’s long-term goals.
To find candidates who have the most advantageous types of experience, consider the long-term goals of the organization. Does the roadmap have plans for new technology related initiatives, or is there an upcoming fundraising goal? Considering these and asking potential boardmembers about their experience with these types of achievements can be a good way to find members that will be the most helpful.

5. Use the network of the executive team.
Typically, existing board members are involved with the recruitment process of new members, and may have potentially qualified candidates in their existing network. Once the responsibilities of a new member are determined, ask the executive team to consider if anyone in their circle may fit the requirements.

6. Write a formal job description.
Writing a job description for the board member position and posting across job boards can be a good way to get more eyes on the opportunity, and can provide a clearer outline of what the expectations and requirements of the role are.

7. Implement a formal interview process.
Going through the interview process can remove bias from the selection process and ensure that the candidate is on the same page about time requirements, expectations, and more.

8. Ensure at least one board member is an independent party.
Most nonprofit boards will be made up of executives, major donors, and individuals with direct connections to the organization, but it is helpful to have at least one member who is truly independent. This can cut down on biases in decision making and provide an outside perspective when making decisions about the organization.

9. Evaluate candidates’ reason for joining a board.
While serving as a board member can be a fantastic career experience, it is best to choose candidates who aren’t joining for this reason alone. Finding board members that have a connection to the organization and are not just seeking a resumé boost will generally result in more productive processes for the organization.

10. Choose members with care.
Asking someone to join a board of directors is a big decision that should be done with care. The board shapes the organization’s goals and guides it through turmoil, so having the right people together can make all the difference.

If you’re a nonprofit, patient advocacy group, or another patient-centric organization in the medical space, we would love to chat about the value of becoming one of our partners. Get in touch today to learn more.