There’s never enough to say about the selection of nonprofit board members. Following my last post on board behaviors and cultures, I ran across a guide for desirable skills/abilities for “for-profit” directors. From this list, I suggest the following additions to the recruitment matrices of 21st-century nonprofit board candidates to improve board productivity. * Those included will have:
Executive and Non-Executive Experiences: These include planners with broad perspectives needed to have visionary outlooks, a well as persons with an unusually strong dedication to the organization’s mission. It may include a senior executive from a business organization and a person who has had extensive client-level experience. Examples for an association for the blind could be the human resources VP for a Fortune 500 corporation and/or a visually impaired professor at a local university.
Industry Experience or Knowledge: An active or retired executive who has or is working in the same or allied field. However, those who can be competitive with the nonprofit for fund development could then present a significant conflict of interest.
Leadership: Several directors should be selected on the basis of their leadership skills/abilities in business or other nonprofit organizations. Having too many with these qualifications may lead to internal board conflict, especially if they have strong personalities.
Governance: Every board member should have a detailed understanding of the role of governance, their overview, financial/due diligence responsibilities, and the potential personal liabilities if they fail to exercise due care. In practice, nonprofits draw from such a wide range of board backgrounds, one can only expect about one-quarter of most boards to have the requisite knowledge. But there are many nonprofit boards that I have encountered that even lack one person with the optimal board/management governance knowledge. Some become so involved with mission activities that they do what the leadership tells them when governance issues are raised. Example: One nonprofit the author encountered, with responsibilities for millions of dollars of assets, operated for 17 years without D&O insurance coverage because the board leadership considered it too costly.
Strategic Thinking & Other Desirable Behavioral Competencies: Not every board member can be capable of or interested in strategic thinking. Their job experiences and educations require them to excel in operations, not envisioning the future. Consequently, every board needs several persons who have visionary experiences and high Emotional
Quotients (EQs.) Those with high EQs can be good team players because they are able to empathize with the emotion of others in the group. Finding board candidates with these abilities takes detailed interpersonal vetting because they do not appear on a resume.
Subject Matter Expertise: Nonprofit Boards have had decades of experience in selecting board candidates by professional affiliations like a businessperson, marketing expert, accountant, etc.
Other Factors Relevant to the Particular Nonprofit: Examples: A nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of children needs to seek a child psychology candidate. One focusing on seniors should seek a geriatric specialist.