The world of nonprofit Board development can be enriching and invigorating.
Recently, an Executive Director called to ask me if I could suggest a Board Chair for their organization or provide insight on who might be a good fit for them.
I was curious how he thought I could help so I started with questions. “What is the role of your current Board chair? What are the expectations you and the Board have for this role? What drives you to be energized about the mission of the organization?”
Throughout our phone conversation as it became clear that he wanted me to suggest prominent names of people he could recruit, I thought, “Where are the ‘headhunters’ for social profit board leaders?” I do know of several organizations that have used BoardNet (an online matchmaking site for Board members and organizations) with success.
While I am not a Board chair headhunter, I have recruited and energized many Board members over the years and have learned some key principles to consider with any Board chair recruitment and with Board and Executive Director relationships:
1. Build a partnership. First and foremost, a good Board chair has a similar amount of passion and drive to see the organization succeed as the Executive Director. Starting with this base, the partnership can grow.
2. Tell stories. For a leader to mobilize a team of Board members, he/she should have the ability to be a storyteller and paint a picture of where the organization is going and how their role makes an impact. Using all forms of communication, an ideal Board chair would be capable of motivating and mobilizing the Board and donors to act and engage in the ‘work’.
3. Meet with current investors. To ascertain what a good pool of Board candidates could look like, talk with your wise counsel, Board members, and top supporters. Seek out people who come from different industries or sectors to offer unique perspectives.
4. Establish rules and rhythms. For an ideal partnership, there would be a clear set of expectations for each role. Understanding what ‘dashboard’ items are important to share with one another and the Board is key to success. Consider having an established time that is set aside on a consistent basis for discussion on issues, topics, and future focus.
Experienced and engaged Board leadership is crucial for the health and stability of our organizations. Use these four principles as a baseline for your Board recruitment and Board chair relationship building.