Often, I hear leaders in non-profit organizations mention that they wish they had additional board members to assist with their organization’s operations and fundraising activities. As Chairman of One Eleuthera Foundation and an active board member, I have seen first-hand what works to achieve an active and cohesive board and productive environment. Key to this is the implementation of an effective board recruitment process.

The board of directors leads an organization at a high level and is responsible for establishing strategic priorities and protecting its stakeholders’ interests. Board recruitment is simply the process of identifying and selecting a candidate to serve as a member of the board of directors for an organization.

This can be a very challenging exercise, especially in the nonprofit sector. Many nonprofits struggle to find qualified individuals with the right temperament, skill sets, expertise, perspectives and community connections who can effectively contribute to the board’s governance and advance the organization’s mission. Even when the right board member is identified, challenges may still arise regarding board effectiveness, unwillingness to fundraise and confusion about board members’ roles. As John Maxwell said, “You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with.”

While the goal of every nonprofit is to recruit persons who are passionate fundraisers and who understand and can clearly communicate the organization’s mission, this may prove difficult. The reason is that most people think of recruiting in terms of hiring staff; however, for nonprofits, it is just as important to attract and retain quality board members. These individuals have a fiduciary responsibility to manage the organization’s interests in an ethical manner and eventually become the cheerleaders for the mission and fundraisers for the organization.

Central to the success of the onboarding process is the establishment of a proper board recruitment program that addresses diversity and inclusion. This allows for enhanced discussions, rounded decision making, and better performance at the board level. This diversity should not only be reflected in the board’s demographics but should also include the attitude and skills each director brings to the table.

Conduct a Board Skill Analysis

Prior to the recruitment of a new board member or the replacement of an existing member, an analysis of the existing board should be performed to identify any gaps and to determine exactly what skills or experience is needed to help your organization achieve its goals and to ensure that it can adequately respond to the needs of the community. This may be accomplished by using a board competency matrix to determine what skills may be lacking and to direct the search for the appropriate candidate. For example, suppose the Board currently has several members with backgrounds in accounting or finance.

In that case, it may be necessary to attract someone with deep community connections or a person with a corporate governance or legal background to ensure that the organization is cognizant of the regulations governing the sector and that the requirements necessary to ensure compliance are met. Once this analysis has been completed and you have a better idea of precisely what your organization needs, you can begin your search by reaching out to current board members, staff and volunteers and ask them to recommend

candidates who may be a good fit for your organization. Be mindful of potential conflicts of interest, as while candidates whose interests align with that of the organization may be ideal, you want to ensure that you are not competing for the same donors in instances where they may be affiliated with another organization.

Know Your Candidate (KYC)

Following this step, proper due diligence should be performed, including obtaining and reviewing resumes and making inquiries within the community, so that you may learn as much as possible about the potential candidate and determine whether their values align with those of the organization. Use the interview process to get to know your candidate. Given how critical this step is to the recruitment process, I recommend meeting with the candidate in person in a casual environment. In my experience, this has proven helpful in not only learning more about them but also getting a better feel for whether they may or may not be a good fit for the organization. Be upfront and honest about the commitment and never be afraid to ask the tough questions, such as:

● Do you have the time to dedicate to the organization, and what other commitments do you currently have?

● Are you able to assist in fundraising activities?

● Why are you interested in serving on the board?

● What skills and experience would you bring to the board?

● How do your personal values align with the organization’s values?

● How do you view the role of a board member?

● What do you see as emerging trends in the sector?

● What are your expectations for the board and the organization?

Implement a Board Orientation Program

Once your candidate has been confirmed, you should ensure a smooth and seamless onboarding and integration process. While you may hope that your new recruit joined your board because of your mission, vision, and values, never assume that they fully understand your organization. Non-profits can be complex, so it is worth sharing the organization’s rich history and successes and your personal story of why you joined and remain a member. Never underestimate the impact and importance of these stories to the recruitment exercise.

Secondly, you may wish to prepare an orientation manual or as much information as possible on your organization, including its history, mission and values, Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, strategic priorities, and the most recent annual report, along with any other policies or procedures that may be relevant. Your onboarding process should also include a discussion of your organization’s expectations regarding confidentiality and how conflicts of interest are managed to ensure that the new member is knowledgeable about the organization and has a good understanding of their role and responsibilities.

In conclusion, a robust board recruitment process is vital to succession planning and can significantly impact an organization’s operations. While board recruitment may seem daunting, implementing a well-considered board recruitment process is a critical first step in establishing a strong foundation for board service, enhancing diversity, and fostering inclusion. To further enrich

the board experience, ongoing training and annual board evaluations should be implemented. This will greatly assist in determining how well the board is performing and pinpoint any necessary adjustments to ensure that the board’s activities reflect the organization’s strategic priorities. These efforts will benefit your organization’s overall success and sustainability while elevating your work in the sector and paving the way for greater societal impact.

About One Eleuthera Foundation

Founded in 2012, One Eleuthera Foundation is a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to transforming our local island communities into thriving, self-sufficient ecosystems. We do this by focusing on five key areas: economic ownership, meaningful educational advancement, pathways to wellness, and environmentally sustainable communities centered around our island’s unique cultural identity. We run a number of social enterprises, including CTI, our vocational school; the Retreat Hotel, a training hotel for hospitality students; and our farm and Cooling House, which trains future farmers in the best sustainability and food production practices. Through OEF’s consistent dedicated efforts, the tenacity and resourcefulness of our legacy community, and the support of donors and partners, we are creating change in Eleuthera.