Seven Director Search Techniques that the Best Boards Use

Last week I shared some techniques for boards to maximise the opportunity that an empty board seat can bring to the board and organisation. It’s best not to get yourself in the position where you’re hoping someone puts their hand up to join the board at the AGM.

Today I am sharing some ideas around where to find board members – beyond the traditional professional and personal networks. These ideas are taken from my personal experience and observations of high-performing boards.

Existing board members’ networks.

Although I encourage looking beyond the usual colleague and friend circles, there is still benefit to utilising the network economy in recruiting new directors. After all, current board members are positioned to understand the requirements of directors and can put forward individuals whom they believe will be able to fulfill those requirements.

However, the best boards avoid recruiting people just because they know them or they are a ‘friend of a friend’. They utilise the considerations and techniques from last week’s post to inform them of their ideal candidate profile and help to narrow their candidate search.

Your existing candidate database.

Much like employers of choice, great boards should be consistently attracting potential future board members. Particularly when we advocate to aspiring company directors that they directly approach organisations that they would absolutely love to join.

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 (a simple spreadsheet is works well).

Utilise this ‘database’ to find your next board member.

Networking events.

Any chance to meet people is a chance to find potential board candidates. We will look at networking events across two main categories: general networking events and purpose-built networking events.

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 are usually set up like speed-dating events. Organisations who need 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 that regularly run these types of events, Get on Board Australia being one of them.

Organisations who facilitate matching organisations with candidates via registers.

Board candidate registers are becoming quite common and are facilitated by a range of organisations. Some registers 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. Whereas CBB Board Match is managed by Community Business Bureau and is available nationally for not-for-profit organisations to find both male and female board candidates.

If your organisation qualifies for access to any of the board registers on offer, I encourage you to utilise it for your candidate search.


A bit old-fashioned, but still worth considering. Advertising allows you to promote your board vacancy through your website and social media channels, your print and digital newsletters, and through other relevant portals. A simple page on your website can outline current vacancies, board member requirements, and information on how to nominate for board / committee positions. Bonus points if you offer a way for people to register their interest in joining the board or committees.

If your board consists of volunteer directors, organisations such as Volunteering SA/NT and Seek Volunteer  provide free advertisement services to qualified not-for-profit organisations. We at Get on Board also like to promote board vacancies via our social media channels and newsletters.

Use your committees.

I have already mentioned positioning future board members within board committees. Committees are the perfect environment to engage interested board candidates if there is currently no room on the board, the candidate is not yet ready for the board, or their personality is better suited to a committee role rather than a board role (see my comment on non-conformists in last week’s post).

You can then draw from this pool when the instance arises for a new director to join the board.

Use social media.

Social media is a unique environment to be searching for board candidates, and doing it well requires a bit of effort on your part. However, it’s a bit different and could open you up to a range of potential candidates that may have been ‘un-findable’ in the past.

LinkedIn allows people to list on their profile that they are seeking not-for-profit board positions (under the Volunteer section). People on Twitter can include their interest in boards in their profile. And I am sure that there is a range of other social media networks where people can share their board aspirations. Use the search function in each network to find “aspiring board members” or people “looking for board opportunities”.

The great benefit of utilising social media as a board candidate search tool is that you can get a sense of the person’s interests, skills, expertise, influence, and reach. All things that can be of use to an organisation.

Even if you don’t use it to find candidates, social media should be part of your board candidate vetting process. If for nothing other than reputation control – you don’t want a social media troll joining your board.


I hope these tips help broaden your board candidate search when the opportunity arises.


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