Boost Board Commitment With This Recruiting Mindset

I recently was interviewed by Wiley Publication’s “Board and Administrator” Editor Jeff Stratton in his article, “Boost Board Commitment With This Recruiting Mindset.”

I discussed with Jeff the all-to-common disconnection between CEO expectations and board members they are working to recruit. Check it out and let me know your thoughts on my blog post. — Hardy


Board consultant Hardy Smith said he sees and hears a “tremendous sense” of frustration on the part of nonprofit CEOs concerning the lack of board engagement and commitment.

“In my experience, the disconnect between CEO expectations and board members starts at the very beginning of their service,” Smith said.

Smith recommends that organizations recruit with “purpose and process” to address this problem. “Too many organizations bring in ‘slot fillers,’ which means they settle for new members,” Smith said. “They are not intentional with what they want.

“We expect board members’ participation and are not clear in communication about what those expectations are,” said Smith.

Whose fault is that?

“Typically, organizations wait too long to fill their board vacancies, with not a lot of pre‐thought, so they end up scrambling,” Smith said.

Recruiting for new board members then becomes “Does anybody have a friend or know somebody?” Smith said. This has nothing to do with the organization’s expectations, and therefore you are setting up a situation where the organization’s expectations have not been identified and enunciated, Smith said.

“It’s a very predictable situation that too many organizations follow,” Smith said.

Fundraising by board members is another issue nonprofit CEOs face related to their expectations not being met. Here, Smith means direct fundraising, and the frustration comes from board members not making the direct ask or making a substantial financial contribution.

It’s a “bait‐and‐switch” method of board recruitment that Smith said really turns board members off: Not having fundraising expectations communicated to them until after they are seated on the board ruins their experience, he said.

“If you want board members to be fundraisers, you need to go out and get people who can fundraise,” Smith said.

Yet, quite often organizations decide on their expectations but don’t tell board members what they have to do, Smith said.

“We have a conversation but are not listening,” Smith said.

Potential board members tell you they are not able to meet your expectations and we still want them and tell them “You don’t have to attend meetings,” he said. “We are pushing someone who will not be good and we rationalize that a miracle will happen,” he said.

But it doesn’t, Smith said, and they tell you they are frustrated and that frustrates you.

In the end, it’s not about recruiting board members, but recruiting the wrong board members. “And whose fault is that?” Smith asked.


Can you relate to these board-member-recruiting challenges, either as a prospective member or a CEO working to find a good one? Comment below!


Article reprinted with permission by Wiley Publication’s Board and Administrator.

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