I was surprised when I surveyed board recruiters (people currently on boards who are tasked with bringing in new board members) only 67% expected to receive a cover letter.
Even though not everyone expected a cover letter, I would recommend that you include one in your board application. With board recruiters preferring short CVs (i.e. 2 pages), it is valuable real estate giving you the opportunity to sell yourself a little more and it should be taken advantage of.
The following structure is how I usually approach writing a cover letter for my aspiring board member clients.
This is where you introduce yourself and reference that you are applying for their board vacancy, or for a specific board opportunity (sometimes boards may be recruiting for many board roles – like Chair and regular board members – so be specific).
Please accept this letter and resume as an expression of my interest in joining The Smith Foundation as a board member.
Connect Desired Attributes with Your Key Attributes
If you are applying for a board opportunity that was advertised, this is where you address the main criteria outlined in the vacancy advertisement. This information here should reinforce what you say in your main resume. In the cover letter you can summarise, and in the resume you can provide further information that backs up your claims in your cover letter.
You don’t have to go overboard; pull out your key strengths and main achievements as they relate to the desired / required criteria.
With an extensive career in human resources, industrial relations, research and development, and regulatory compliance I am ready to be involved with a board and organisation where I can deliver value through my technical expertise and operational understanding. My experience and knowledge in several of the key areas required for the role of Director demonstrates my ability to contribute to the success of The Smith Foundation.
I am currently the Principal and Managing Director of a consultancy specialising in human resources and industrial relations. In collaboration with industry teams, I have executed strategies to deliver new technology to Australian businesses in the not-for-profit sector. In many cases, working alongside the relevant government departments and agencies has been integral to a successful outcome.
My professional experience and education places me in a positive position to contribute to The Smith Foundation board and help the organisation to achieve its mission and goals. As part of my continued learning I have participated in Get on Board Australia’s Boardroom Bootcamp course, and I continue to invest in building my board and directorship knowledge.
To The Smith Foundation board I offer technical expertise and a true understanding, passion, and enthusiasm. As a tenacious truth-seeker, I utilise my research and analytical skills to find unique solutions to difficult problems. Through my regular engagement with local and federal governments, I utilise my high commitment and drive to reach needs-based outcomes for the industry.
The last couple of sentences close out your cover letter. I like to add a little personality or flavour in this section, either through demonstrating your connection to the mission of the organisation, or including something relevant and personal.
I believe that improving human resources practices in not-for-profits is key to the future of volunteer workers in Australia and I would welcome the chance to apply my experience in the NFP/Government interface to enhance workplace performance and health and, in turn, not-for-profit performance and sustainability.
I welcome the opportunity to talk with you further to discuss the important role of non-executive director of The Smith Foundation and can be contacted on 0412 345 678 at any time.
My experience to date, my passion for what you do and my eagerness to contribute to a high calibre board are the reason I have chosen to apply for this role. As a part-time worker and keen golfer, albeit a fairly average one, I have the time to commit to the good governance and leadership of The Golfer’s Foundation.
In example number two, make note that the personality flavour is highly relevant as this person is applying to a golf-related board. I’m all for a little bit of flavour in your cover letter, but stress that you keep it relevant and understated.
Something simple like Your’s Sincerely or Warmest Regards will suffice. And remember to include your name.
If you’re sending your cover letter and resume electronically, it’s OK to not have a signature on your cover letter – not everyone has the ability to print off, sign, scan, and send. And often times the quality of scanned documents is not the best. However, if you have the ability to insert a digital signature, go for it.
I encourage you to include a cover letter with your board resume as you apply for board opportunities. Even if it doesn’t explicitly call for a cover letter, the opportunity for additional capacity to talk about your greatest strengths and how valuable you can be for the organisation is too good of an opportunity to pass up.
If you need more help with your cover letter and/or board resume, feel free to reach out.
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