Diversification on the Board of Directors is a key to the success of any nonprofit. For instance, if a board’s members look the same, are all the same age and gender, their influence on the organization’s leadership, vision, and strategic direction might be similar. Input from board members with varying backgrounds, locale, age, gender, and ethnicity creates a more nuanced vision. It’s also important for a board to look like the communities it serves.
Diversification of experience in industry and skillsets allows nonprofits to benefit directly from this expertise. A board member with marketing and communication expertise can help an organization create a marketing plan or open doors to local media. Financial expertise allows a board member to give advice on a budget and financial practices in the organization. Fundraising experience is also a key as every board member should be making a gift to the annual board campaign and have the ability to solicit funds or open doors to funders.
A very helpful tool to ensure healthy diversity for any nonprofit board is a Board Composition & Recruitment Matrix. Matrixes can be very simple or very detailed and will help an organization visualize what the needs are when seeking future board members. A typical matrix lists current board members on the X axis and identifiers on the Y axis such as gender, locale, industry, age, ethnicity and skills. It’s also helpful to list terms for current board members to easily identify how many openings need to be filled in the coming years. It’s important to abide by term limits keeping the Board of Directors fresh and giving the opportunity for new blood to bring ideas as well as energy to fundraise to a nonprofit - an important role for all board members.
An example of a detailed matrix can be found below. The matrix includes board members’ and prospective board members’ skills, intellectual capital, qualities and committee membership. It also allows you to prioritize the recruitment of prospective board members and tracks board terms
A nonprofits’ Nominating Committee or Board Development Committee is responsible for keeping the matrix up-to-date. The matrix should be reviewed at each committee meeting and at a full board meeting every so often. The matrix can also become part of an organization’s annual board orientation. Over the years I’ve seen organizations ask a board member that is rolling off the board, to find his or her replacement. This is often not a good policy as the replacement may not fill a gap that is identified in the board matrix. This person may not have the passion or fundraising ability to open doors or may not be comfortable making an ask. When recruiting a new board member, be sure to give the prospective board member a Board Member Job Description and explain the term limits for your organization and how often the board and subcommittees meet.
A helpful BoardSource article on board recruitment, along with additional resources, can be found here https://www.boardsource.org/eweb/dynamicpage.aspx?webcode=Envision-Your-Ideal-Board.