Finding and Recruiting Board Members
Finding great board or committee members can be a challenge for many organisations. I see this challenge across the full spectrum of businesses – for-profit, not-for-profit, charities, sporting clubs, community groups, private companies, and public companies.
It puzzles me that this continues to happen.
Through Get on Board Australia I’m given the amazing opportunity to come across many highly capable aspiring company directors looking to join their first board. Whilst I have written, consulted and presented extensively on how these board candidates can find directorships, this particular post focuses on how existing boards and committees can establish the internal processes that will enable them to seek out, find, and recruit qualified and ready future leaders.
Approaching director recruitment falls into two main activities: setting the foundations necessary to recruit candidates (the how), and finding candidates (the where).
How to recruit board members
· Conduct a skills audit of the current board to understand the skill composition of the board. Compare this skills matrix to the organisation’s strategic plan and identify where the organisations’ skills gaps are in relation to what the organisation is wanting to achieve over the next few years. This will help refine and focus your candidate selection criteria and subsequent candidate search.
· Aim to recruit the best person for the job, and at the same time consider the diversity and gender balance best suited for the organisation going forward. Again, refer to the strategic plan to consider how best to leverage opportunities a diverse range of people can provide.
· Prepare a detailed director position description including the responsibilities, expectations, and time commitment required. This helps the candidate know exactly what they’re getting into, and ensures you gain full commitment from new board recruits.
· Have a rigorous interview and screening process which can include the candidate meeting with a handful of board members, asking appropriate questions, reference / referral checking, and full disclosure by the organisation on the financial position, strategic plan, insurances, and any other important information the candidate would need to know to discharge their role effectively.
· Consider forming a nominations committee (either permanently, or on an “as-needs” basis) to facilitate the board / committee member recruitment process. This can ease the pressure on the full board from having to interview a number of candidates, and create streamlined, consistent director selection and recruitment process.
· Ensure you have a detailed and effective on-boarding / induction process for new board members. As part of the induction process for new directors, consider including a buddy system (pairing the new board member with an existing board member) to be a guide on how the board operates, and highlight and explain some of the ‘unspoken rules’ and politics of the boardroom.
Where to find board candidates
The following is a list of places where you can find potential directors. If you look, they are everywhere!
· Existing board members’ networks. The network economy is extremely strong when it comes to directorships. The networks of board members should be explored when seeking new directors. Current board members are positioned to best understand the requirements of directors and can put forward individuals whom they believe will be able to fulfil those requirements. Candidates can come from direct network connections or from network referrals. But it shouldn’t be the only place you look for new candidates.
· Your existing candidate database. I advocate to aspiring board members that they (appropriately) directly approach organisations that they would absolutely love to join. It is a ballsy move, but one that done right can pay off for them. As an organisation and a board, be open to receiving ‘cold calls’ from prospective board members. If a position is not yet available, take their details and keep them on record for future board or committee openings.
· Networking events. These events fall into two main categories: general networking events and purpose-built networking events. Any chance to meet people is a chance to find potential board candidates.
General networking events happen frequently and I’m sure that you attend many during the course of a year. Open your mind to finding board candidates at these events; you’re there anyway, so why not?!
Purpose-built networking events generally work like speed-dating events: organisations who are seeking board members are bought together with ready-to-go candidates in a setting geared towards matching one with the other. They are worthwhile attending if you’re looking for a different or new selection pool. There are many organisations who regularly run these types of events. For example, in South Australia, the Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing facilitate connecting sport and recreation boards with candidates.
· Organisations who facilitate matching organisations with candidates via registers. Board candidate registers are popping up everywhere and are facilitated by all different types of organisations, state governments, and state government departments. Some are maintained by a central organisation for specific use by affiliated organisations – for example, the Women in Sport Leadership Register is maintained by the Australian Sport Commission to assist national and state sporting bodies find female board candidates; CBB Board Match is managed by Community Business Bureau and is available nationally for not-for-profit organisations to find board candidates. If your organisation has access to one of the board registers, I encourage you to utilise it.
· Advertisements. Consider promoting your board vacancy through your website and social media channels, your print and digital newsletters, and through other relevant portals. If your board consists of volunteer directors, organisations such as Volunteering SA/NT (volunteeringsa.org.au) and Seek Volunteer (volunteer.com.au) provide free advertisement services to qualified not-for-profit organisations.
Knowing the type of board member best suited to the organisation now and into the medium-range future, and casting your candidate net as wide as possible, offers you the ability to attract potential board members who you may not have sourced through previous methods.
How does your board or committee recruit new members?
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