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Sealing the Deal: Setting New Board of Director Members Up for Success

Updated: Apr 16

In “Mastering Non-Profit Board Recruitment: 6 Steps to Success”, we identify Board Recruitment as a core board function. A function made easier when the board communicates well, makes informed decisions, and oversees operations reasonably and responsibly. In other words, acts as a healthy board.


The Recruitment and Orentation Process
Setting New Board of Directors members up for Success

Preparing for Recruitment:

Before starting your recruiting journey, it’s important first to complete several pre-planning activities to ensure that your board is a healthy one:

The successful completion of these activities will not only ensure that your board is a healthy position to start recruitment, but will also establish a solid framework to start conversations with potential recruits. With a clear understanding of what your Board needs, determining who to invite to discuss Board Member opportunities is made abundantly easier.


Getting New Recruits to Say Yes!

As a non-profit organization, you must make a good first impression and demonstrate that you are organized. As discussed in our blog post “Mastering Non-Profit Board Recruitment: 6 Steps to Success,” following a standardized annual recruitment process is the first step to professionally representing your non-profit.


It goes beyond that, though. Potential candidates want to join Boards with positive and healthy communication practices. One where everyone’s voices are heard, the hard questions are expected and appreciated, and disagreement is simply a part of constructive dialogue. The question is, how do you promote your Board’s culture and communication norms?


Here are some ideas:


  • Invite candidates to meet with several Board members over coffee.

  • Provide stories and examples of how the board interacts with each other.

  • Talk about what current members have learned and appreciated about being on the board.

  • Ask candidates about past Board experiences and what they are looking for – and reflect on these items with your Board interactions.

  • Talk about the fun social stuff and the expectations and commitments desired.

  • Connect candidates with past or current Board members before they say “YES.”

  • Connect candidates with the Executive Director, who can speak about Board interactions honestly.

Recruitment is a Sales Process

The reality is that while you are looking to decide whether the candidate is the right fit for your Board, the candidate is also deciding whether your Board is the right fit for them. When recruiting, we must remember that this is a two-way “sales” process… yes, you read that right, a sales process!


You are selling the candidate on your organization, and they are working to sell you on their fit with your Board. Both parties must make decisions.


If you want your candidate to say “Yes!” without hesitation to joining your board, always have your recruitment spiel ready to go that addresses these questions:

  • What makes your organization unique?

  • What are the expectations of Board Members?

  • What benefits do Board Members incur from volunteering?

  • What will the candidate learn as part of the Board?

  • How will being part of the Board help candidates achieve their goals?

Candidates may have “objections” to joining, as with any sales process. These concerns need to be addressed by you to recruit them successfully . Before meeting with them, consider why they may not want to join your Board and reflect on your response:


  • Is the time commitment more than they can make?

  • Is the non-profit’s mandate something they are not passionate about?

  • Is there a financial investment expected of Board Members?

For example, if they are not passionate about your organization’s mandate and aren’t sure they can contribute, explain that every Board needs diverse ideas, experience, and perspectives. Having someone who looks at things differently ensures various scenarios are considered before making decisions.


Alternatively, if the candidate has specialized skills (accounting, legal, community, etc.), highlight how their unique skill set benefits the Board. This is important if you know there is an upcoming project where their expertise is vital. In this case, if you can’t get them to commit to joining the Board on an ongoing basis, consider inviting them to sit on a project working committee to lend their expertise for a shorter period and acquaint them with your Board. You can always ask them to join again later.


Tying it up with a Pretty Bow

Your Board has done all the pre-work. You know your Board is healthy and active– maybe not perfect, but not dysfunctional – and the organization knows the skills and expertise they need to recruit. You’ve followed the 6 steps to Success for recruitment, you’ve identified great candidates and sold them on your organization, and they’ve said “YES.”


Now things get serious. The Board needs to deliver on that image you portrayed and set up all candidates for success.


Here are three things that set candidates up for a successful transition:


Ensuring AGM Vote goes as planned.

This ensures everyone on the Board (and in your membership) is happy with the new candidates and will vote them in at the AGM. It sounds silly to say that, but you don’t want to be surprised at the AGM if board members or members of the society don’t agree with your recommended recruits.


It’s essential to do your due diligence before the AGM. Ensure the new candidates are highlighted in the AGM package and their background is presented positively. Allow members to connect with you in advance with concerns. Be prepared to address them positively and comment on the thoroughness of the recruitment process, not the person.


Delivering a Comprehensive Board Orientation.

Having a solid Board Orientation ready within a week of the new Board members being voted in will go a long way in setting your candidates up for success. Any Board Member can lead the Board Orientation; however, the Chair and Vice-Chair must be present at some point to meet the new recruits. The Orientation is also an excellent opportunity to introduce the Executive Director and highlight their role.


A good Board Orientation should review:

  • Bylaws and Governing documents.

  • Schedule of Board Meetings & Board Commitments.

  • Agenda and Meeting Format.

  • Board Communication Standards and Culture.

  • Board Member Expectations.

  • Board Working Committees.

  • Review of Strategic Plan and Priorities.

  • Key Board policies and Procedures.

  • Acts and Regulations = Compliance.

  • Introduction to Key Staff Members.

  • Tour of the Facility.

  • Operational Considerations.

This orientation doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to provide the new members with a solid foundation of information from which to operate. It is good practice to provide them with a binder with all the governing documents, strategic plan, current priorities, financials, and past six-months of meeting agendas and minutes to help them orient to the role and what the Board is currently working on. This information can be read independently, with only the highlights being addressed during the orientation.


Assigning an Existing Board Member as a Mentor.

Also key in ensuring the success of your new Board Members is assigning them a Mentor. The Mentor needs to be an active and engaged Board Member who can answer questions, provide guidance, inform the new member of projects and initiatives, and be a resource and support.


I know that on many boards, everyone plays this role. The difference is that assigning the new Board member a Mentor makes the relationship more “formal.” The Mentee is often more comfortable reaching out to their assigned “buddy” than just reaching out to any Board member. Having a Mentor for new Board Members relieves pressure on the Chair and Executive Director as the new members become oriented and settle in.


The relationship building, increased connection and comfort, and easy access to answers shorten the time it takes new board members to engage in Board conversations and projects actively.

What does your board currently do to recruit and onboard new members? How effective is it in engaging new members and making them feel welcome as contributing members of the Board? What might you do differently? Consider these questions and share your reflections below. We’d love to hear from you!

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