Recruiting the Right Board for Impact

by Miriam April 23, 2024

Your board members play a pivotal role in steering your organization toward meaningful outcomes. We're excited to partner with Megan Motil and Des Worthington for a 5-part lunch and learn series to equip organizations and their boards with the vital tools and insights for navigating the complexities of nonprofit governance.


Whether you're a seasoned board member, part of the leadership team, or simply curious about nonprofit governance, we invite you to join us for one or all of the upcoming sessions. Each installment offers valuable insights and builds upon the previous discussions, providing a comprehensive toolkit of practical strategies to advance your nonprofit's mission.


This blog introduces key concepts from the second session of our series, held on April 18, 2024, focusing on Recruiting the Right Board for Impact. The workshop explored strategies for determining what organizations need from their board members and practical approaches for assembling your “Dream Board.”

Understanding What Your Organization Needs

As your organization evolves, so must its leadership! 

Our discussion in the first session, Adapting Board Roles for Ongoing Success, highlighted how your board evolves alongside your organization through its lifecycle stages. By aligning board composition with your strategic priorities, you can ensure your board is well-equipped to guide your organization through each phase, fostering greater impact and sustainability.


Start-Up Stage:

  • Hands-on involvement in governance, operations, and fundraising efforts is crucial as board members are expected to actively participate in building the foundation of the organization.
  • An entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to take risks are essential traits as the organization navigates the uncertainties of its early stages.
  • Board members should leverage their personal networks for fundraising and community support to help establish the organization's presence and credibility.

Growth Stage:

  • Strategic planning skills are necessary to guide the organization's growth trajectory and ensure that expansion efforts are aligned with its mission and goals.
  • Experience in building strategic partnerships and alliances can help the organization leverage resources and expertise to support its growth.
  • Financial acumen is essential to manage increased resources and funding streams effectively, ensuring financial sustainability and responsible stewardship of resources.
  • The ability to navigate complexities associated with growth and expansion, such as organizational restructuring and capacity building, is crucial for board members in this stage.


Maturity Stage:

  • Governance experience and expertise in strategic planning are essential as the organization transitions from rapid growth to sustainable operations.
  • Financial management skills are necessary to ensure the organization's long-term financial health and stability.
  • The capacity to oversee and evaluate organizational impact and outcomes is vital to ensure that the organization's programs and services continue to meet the needs of its stakeholders.
  • Experience in building and maintaining strong relationships with stakeholders, including donors, partners, and community members, is important to sustain support for the organization's mission.
  • Commitment to upholding the organization's values and mission is essential as the organization seeks to maintain its reputation and impact in the community.


Decline Stage:

  • Turnaround management experience is crucial to address financial challenges and stabilize the organization during periods of decline.
  • Crisis management skills are necessary to navigate shifting community needs and respond effectively to external pressures.
  • The ability to make difficult decisions regarding resource allocation and restructuring is essential to ensure the organization's survival and long-term viability.
  • A strategic vision is needed to identify opportunities for organizational renewal or transformation and chart a path forward for the organization.
  • Commitment to preserving the organization's legacy and impact, even in challenging times, is vital to ensure that its mission continues to be fulfilled.


When it comes to cultivating a successful board, Megan reminds us that it’s not just about finding individuals with the “right” credentials. “It's about finding the right fit – individuals who not only bring passion and dedication but also align with the board's desired dynamic and culture. Building a board that understands and values the “soft” components of governing - things like relationships, communication, roles and participation, and resolving conflict -  is just as important as finding people with experience leading in the “hard” ones like strategy, financial acumen, legal issues, and policies and procedures." 

Recruiting for Success

Recruiting exceptional board members is essential for the success and effectiveness of your nonprofit organization. 


The Commitment of Board Engagement

Effective boards understand the importance of both their commitment as an individual and their collective responsibility as board members in driving the organization forward.


Individually, board members must exemplify a commitment to giving in three key areas: Time, Treasure, and Talent. Firstly, they should be fully engaged in fulfilling their governing, managing, and volunteering duties. Secondly, the organization should be among their top giving priorities, demonstrating their dedication to supporting its mission financially. And lastly, board members should be willing to leverage their unique skill sets and expertise to contribute meaningfully to furthering the organization's goals.


Des highlights that cultivating your dream board requires a blend of passion, professionalism, and expertise: “A truly effective board member is one who generously offers their Time, Treasure, and Talent. They are examples of all three.”


Collectively, board members must understand that their primary duty is to serve as stewards of the organization's mission and resources, ensuring that all decisions and actions align with its overarching goals and values. 


Keys to Building a Successful Board

To ensure a strong and cohesive board, it is crucial to take a strategic approach that focuses on clear expectations, engagement, and alignment.


Clear Expectations and Effective Communication

Building a successful board begins with establishing clear expectations. Your organization should have a board job description that accurately reflects the organization’s goals and outlines specific time, treasure, and talent expectations for all board members. A well-defined job description, like this sample from one of Des’ clients, ensures that potential candidates understand their roles and responsibilities, fostering alignment with the organization's mission and vision. 


Ongoing Engagement and Commitment

To maintain a successful board, ongoing engagement is essential. Board commitment sheets, like this one, can be updated annually to create specific involvement opportunities that help encourage continuous participation. Commitment sheets include activities unique to each organization to reflect value-added support of the organization’s mission and activities. 


Recruiting for Alignment and Compatibility

When recruiting new board members, it's crucial to prioritize alignment with the organization's mission and values. Successful candidates demonstrate a passion for the mission and a genuine commitment to the organization. She suggests getting to know community members is important before exploring board membership. Des offers Discovery Visits, as a way to learn more about those who show an interest in your organization. This visit can be an important first step to understanding whether a person is a good fit for getting more involved in the mission. 

Your Dream Board Will Reflect Your Organization’s Needs

It’s important to remember that building a successful board is an ongoing process, and your “Dream Board” will look different as time goes on. By understanding your organization's unique needs at each stage of its lifecycle and recruiting board members who embody passion, professionalism, and expertise, you can create a dynamic team that is not only effective but also deeply invested in the success and sustainability of your organization. 

Aligning Board Roles with Strategic Goals

We invite you to join us for the next session of our lunch and learn series, Aligning Board Roles with Strategic Goals on May 2, where we'll delve into several crucial aspects of nonprofit governance: decision-making and organizational alignment around strategic goals and direction, the importance of clarified roles of board and staff, and the relationship between strategy and fundraising.


Downloadable Resources:

Sample Board Position Description

Board Recruiting Discovery Visit

Sample Board Commitment Form


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