Monday, April 23, 2007


Effective boards bring the right mix of talent and energy to their volunteer service. While it is tempting to find anyone willing to fill a slot on your roster, it’s more important to think strategically about the human resources that your board needs to succeed. When many boards assess their needs, they focus on demographic characteristics -- e.g., gender, ethnicity, age, and residency. In fact, there are other factors that your board may want to consider, including:

• Skills (e.g., fund raising, public relations, special events, accounting)
• Knowledge (e.g., art history, K-12 education, medicine)
• Connections (e.g., constituency liaisons, “people who know people”)

Your group likely will find that a mix of perspectives and talents will be optimal. Once you’ve listed the range of needs that your organization requires, take some time to identify the qualities and skills that your current members bring to the group. (Don’t assume you know the answer to that question – board members may individually identify “hidden” talents that they’ve never disclosed before, usually because no one asked). Using your board’s needs list, ask each member to indicate what skills, knowledge, etc., he/she brings to the group, then create a group profile. Doing so will uncover the obvious – and perhaps not so obvious –- contributions that individuals bring to the board. It also will unveil the gaps that can be used to guide recruitment of new members. As you embark on this process, you may find value in creating a grid similar to the example provided in the appendix.

Newer boards – As you develop your group, spend some time discussing what qualities and voices you need to accomplish your goals. Do you need representation in specific geographic areas? Specific educational backgrounds or professions? People who know major gift prospects? People with access to specific stakeholder groups? Volunteers with a record of supporting your unit? New people looking for a way to get involved? What is the right mix of needs to help your board do its work?

Veteran boards – Include a regular (annual) assessment of board skills/needs and the contributions that current board members bring to the group. Use that assessment to identify gaps, and let that information guide your recruitment process.

Some questions to foster discussion:

• How do/will we identify needs for board membership?
• How do/will we identify the qualities that our current board members bring to the group?
• What are our biggest board needs?

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