This is the third in a series of posts on effective Board of Directors work (or Board of Trustees, Council, etc.) Some of these posts will be primarily for those new to board work while others will be for those who are trying to improve and professionalize the quality of the work of their organization's board. If you’d like to receive them in your inbox as they are published, sign up at the end of this post.
In my previous blog post, I provided a few ideas for thinking carefully about the top talent you want and need for your Board. It may take several years to build a top talent board because people occupy multi-year terms. But, every time you have an opening, it is an opportunity to raise the bar so that you can have the highest quality board possible.
In some ways, recruiting top talent for a board is similar to recruiting top talent for your staff.
One of the first things to do is to craft a written board overview for prospective members regarding the organization. Here is an outline I have used in recent years:
Once we had developed a list of 5 to 10 possible prospects for every open position, we would make an initial approach via an introductory email from the person who had referred them to us or a direct email or if you are using one of the excellent board databases that are available (see my previous blog post), they will help you connect with the people you want to review.
If the people you contact express interest in learning more, then send your board overview to them and invite them to send you their Board Profile or resume, if you haven’t already received it. I also do a quick search on-line to see what else I can learn about the prospective interviewee. LinkedIn is especially helpful, but many companies and not-for-profit organizations include bios for their key executives on their websites. And, social media sites can sometimes be helpful, as well.
Once you have had this initial correspondence with prospective candidates for your board, it is time to schedule interviews. Here is the process I have used with success:
If you are recruiting for a paid corporate board slot, then you will want to have a formal written contract drawn up by an attorney, just as you would for any work for hire agreement. This should be very specific about the duties, timeframe, expectations for the commitment, and compensation including pay (per meeting or overall), additional pay for committee work if appropriate, reimbursement for travel expenses, payment for D&O insurance coverage, and any other specifics that are appropriate for your organization. Again, I recommend asking for this signed agreement to be returned by a specific date so that you know quickly if this person you have identified is joining your board or not.
Does this seem like a long process? It can be! Or, it can go relatively quickly. But it is critically important to recruit not only talented people, but people who are a good fit for the work and culture of your board; not just your current board, but the board you are trying to build for the future. Having a board filled with talented, dedicated, people who work well together is a joy. But having even one member who isn’t a good fit can derail much of the work of the board and, ultimately, your organization. If you have three or four-year board terms, a person who isn’t a good fit can waste a lot of time and energy for several years. So, paying attention to the details of identification and recruitment of top talent for your board is well worth the effort.
Beth A. Lewis
© Getting2Transformation 2019
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