Recruiting the best for your board
Does it feel impossible to find new, skilled and experienced trustees? Well, it can be at times! But there are many things that you can do to make a real difference to your chances of finding the right additions to your board. Here are a few tips:
- Create a role description that genuinely reflects how your board operates. If you are a hands-on group that expects trustees to muck in when necessary, then say so, indicating how much time you might need to offer. Do remember that boards are supposed to be strategic, and lead an organisation, so don’t confuse volunteering roles with trustee roles. Ask people what they would be willing to do.
- Remember that you are selling an opportunity to join your board to people who are often really busy. Write a couple of sides of A4 that includes a bit about your history, what the goals of the organisation are, who is on the board now, what the expectations of the role are, how often you have meetings and what time of day, and any significant plans you have for the future. If there are problems to tackle, do mention them, but explain how you are planning to change things, and what the board can do to make this happen. Offer a true picture of your organisation, but don’t forget to sell its potential too.
- Identify one person on the board who is responsible for succession planning, will make sure it stays on the agenda, and will lead a small subgroup through a recruitment process. This might be annually, depending on your terms of office.
- If you can, invite potential trustees to one of your events or activities, or to sit in on a board meeting before joining. This gives a good sense of how a group of individuals operate, the dynamic of the group, and the way decisions are made. It can also show up bad practice, so get your act together first, and make sure your are behaving with professionalism. You should really be doing this anyway!
- Throw the net as widely as possible to find new potential trustees. Use free online services, join useful membership organisations that offer board recruitment advertising, and use professional and business networks regionally. Also ask all of your volunteers, trustees, supporters, friends and funders if they have any ideas for individuals to contact. Look for appropriate skills and experience, but also meet people informally to get a sense of how they might work in your board “team”. Try to understand their motivation for wanting to join, and what you can offer to each other. Every new person can change the dynamic, so make sure it’s positive.
- Don’t let succession planning creep up on you. It is one thing that every single board has to do pretty regularly, so you can work out the details well in advance. At least once a year, put an item on the agenda to talk about how the board is doing, what skills you might need to add, who is coming to the end of their term or is thinking of stepping down, and how the trustees are delivering your strategic plans. Once you take it away from the personal, and talk about what the organisation needs to succeed, it becomes a little easier to talk about change. We know that sometimes personalities clash, factions form and friends fall out, but it shouldn’t be allowed to ruin your organisation. Be brave and talk it through professionally. If you are constantly needing to recruit new trustees then it might be time to grasp that nettle!