BoardSource’s study, Leading with Intent 2017, triggered several conversations among nonprofit leaders online and elsewhere about the finding that boards’ ethnic composition, after many years, is still mostly white. While this is a critical issue for the sector, another key finding that’s garnering less attention is that executive directors and board chairs find it difficult or very difficult to recruit board members. Given that difficulty, how can we hope to effectively address diversity or other challenges executives and board members are dealing with in board recruitment?

In my work as a nonprofit consultant (and a former Executive Director), I’ve seen first-hand how challenging it can be to recruit new board members—especially the right ones you really hope to have engage with your nonprofit. An important first step is to empower board members and executives to overcome the barriers to recruiting that make it so hard.

But, do we know what those barriers are?

Recently, when a group of executives and board members I was working with were asked about barriers and their challenges, the following themes emerged:
1. The people we want don’t have time to serve on a board.
2. Other nonprofits have a more appealing mission.
3. We can’t find candidates with the right motivation.
4. We can’t find people we need with financial means or connections to it.
5. We don’t have connections with communities of color.

It occurred to me that much of the above has to do with mindset. What are the beliefs and assumptions you are making about recruiting new board members? These assumptions are one of the biggest challenges executives and board member face. I can see how holding one or more of these beliefs (even if supported by some experience) makes recruiting feel very difficult.

I still have questions about the challenges though. Are these views common among other nonprofit leaders? What else, if people were asked confidentially/anonymously, would they identify as challenges?

To help answer these questions and more, I am conducting a survey about board recruitment practices. The purpose of the survey is to learn more about the challenges nonprofit leaders face recruiting board members.

If you are a nonprofit leader, please participate. The survey is short and, if you complete it and leave your contact information, you will receive a summary of the findings.

Just go here: Board Recruitment Experiences Survey.