Recruiting New Board Members

Dear Expert: What is the best way to recruit a nonprofit board of directors? — Carmen 

Dear Carmen,

The type of board members is affected by many factors, such as the size of the organization; whether it is just getting started or has been around awhile; what services the organization provides; how funds are raised, etc. Luckily, there are lots of resources to help you.  A good place to start is the Recruitment section of the Board Leadership Project.

All the above tools help you assess what characteristics and skills your organization needs in its new board members.  boardnetUSA is an online service that matches nonprofit organizations with people who want to serve on nonprofit boards.

BoardSource has an extensive library that might help as well.

All the best!
Editor, Ask the Experts 

Telecommuting Board?

Dear Expert: Several of our board members have requested that they be allowed to participate in board meetings via telephone. We have no restriction about this in our bylaws. Can a member of a nonprofit board vote via phone? Does this extend to committees that have met and deliberated within this conference-call setting? — Tom

Dear Tom,

Two aspects of your question need to be addressed: What is legal and what is best for the camaraderie of your board.

  1. The first part is easy: Some states allow voting by phone, some do not. Contact the office of your state’s attorney general and/or a local attorney familiar with nonprofit law.  Some states may allow “not in person voting” via FAX. Or you may be able to ratify votes taken via phone at a later in-person meeting. You will also want to up-date your bylaws, if you decide to allow telephonic voting.
  2. The second part is tough. Once you know the state law, the board should discuss what is in the best interest of the organization. Board members are often busy people but developing rapport among board members is key to its effectiveness. In-person board meetings keep board members connected to the organization, its mission, and other board members.

Some issues to consider:

  • Is the request being made because board meetings are boring, too long, or unproductive? If so, make meetings more effective.
  • Is the expertise of the board member(s) so valuable that an exception should be made?
  • Is this a one-time event or do some people want to always vote by phone?
  • Is the timing of the meeting a problem? That can be addressed easily.
  • Is distance to the meeting place a problem? If so, perhaps you can vary the location.
  • Is there a special circumstance, such as illness, involved?

Check out the Board Culture section of the Board Leadership Project on this website.

Editor, Ask the Experts