Are you tired of trying to find those elusive board members who are ready, wiling and able to serve?

I’m noticing that many nonprofits are working on building their boards now. The good news is they are doing it intentionally. And being selective.

The pandemic and challenge of racial equity have a bright side. They force us to see the gaps in our leadership. It’s also forcing us to address issues we’ve perhaps only danced around before.


So what’s the secret to recruiting the best-matched people for your nonprofit now?

Keep in mind, if we only look within our own networks (neighbors, alumni groups, professional organizations, our kids’ friend’s parents, book club, etc.) we may only find more people like us.

You must perform some strategic outreach in order to find the board members you need.

I’m assuming you have created an ideal board profile: the list of characteristics and experiences you need to round out your board in order to reach your strategic priorities. If not, stop reading this until you spend time with your team doing so.

And don’t let me hear – “we need to diversify our board.” What the heck does that mean? Diversify in terms of ethnicity? Age? Geography? Profession? Religion? Military background? (And if you’re just looking for a representative board, that isn’t enough. More on that later but really focus on inclusion and equity so you can make the best decisions about your work).

Be specific.

Just today, during a recruiting conversation with a client, you should have seen the light bulbs go off when their desired profile became clearer.

They realized that someone who is Latinx (because a significant part of the community being served is Latinx), someone who lived in a certain area (because they are expanding into this area), someone from a larger corporation (because small business is already well-represented), someone who was younger (the over 50 demographic is already well-represented) and someone who has expertise in PR and marketing are examples of people who could bring value to the board.

(Pssssst – that doesn’t mean they need 5 different people – ideally a couple people could check all these boxes).

Here are 3 outreach strategies to identify the best-matched board members now:

1. Tap into the inner circle of your organization: this seems like common sense but when was the last time you intentionally reviewed your list of donors, volunteers, newsletter subscribers, vendors, participants, social media followers, etc. and identified 10 people who might fit some components of your ideal board member profile. These folks likely already have a passion for your mission and care about your work.

It makes sense that you segment these groups (can you select on DOB if you need younger members? Zip codes?), prioritize the people on these lists and determine some outreach strategies for them specifically.

2. Go online: LinkedIn is the largest professional network on the internet. So leverage it. Post your specific needs in relevant groups and ask those who want to learn more to connect with you. Conduct a search with keywords like “Marketing.” You may have a second or third connection in common who could introduce you to someone you’d like to know. There’s a section call LinkedIn for Nonprofits that has other resources you might appreciate too.

Volunteer Match is a service that allows you to post volunteer opportunities too. It’s fairly well-known and volunteers are able to use it as an effective search tool. There is also a basic membership that’s free.

3. Contact professional organizations: These groups exist to offer professional development to their members and connect them more deeply to the community. Board service is a leadership development opportunity.

Have you contacted your local Chamber staff and let them know what you need? (Do you have a Black or Hispanic Chamber?). Have you attended their events? Is there a Young Professional Organization chapter in your town? What about subject matter experts – like the American Marketing Association?

You can interview them, post in their newsletter, speak at their events and otherwise be sure they all know you value board service and are serious about selecting the best-matched people for your board. They will respect the professionalism that you approach the search with and remember you the next time someone is talking about board service.

Bottom line – the work you put in up front will reap dividends in the end. This isn’t about just inviting the nice people you all know and like onto the board. You may need to slow down to get it right.  Before you get overwhelmed, pick just one or two things to do first.

Imagine a fully engaged, talented board who partners with you to blow past your fundraising goals and build awareness in ways you had never imagined!

It’s possible when you do strategic outreach up front.