Building Your Board Bench

Building Your Board Bench

by Emily DavisIMG_5410
This May 2016 I’m excited to return as a trainer for the Camp Colorado conference. One of the sessions I’ll be facilitating is Building the Board Bench, which is all about board recruitment. The strategies I teach are also ones I’ve used with the boards on which I’ve served. They’ve been so valuable to building the volunteer leadership needed for success in governance.

I’m a big fan of BoardSource’s Board Building Cycle and I have combined their best practices over the years with mine as well. Here are a few highlights for consideration in your recruitment strategy. I hope you’ll join my session to learn more tips and practices.

Nomination vs. Governance Committee

If your organization has planned a recruitment strategy you have most likely considered a nomination committee. The nomination committee is typically responsible for identification and recruitment of potential board members to govern your organization. The idea of a nomination committee has never been very appealing to me because I see it as one component of a larger system related to board development. I see a board development committee as a better approach to both nomination and a number of other activities related to strengthening your board. Board development includes recruitment and nomination, but also focuses on retention of board members, which comes in many forms. Retention of quality board members begins with a healthy recruitment process.

Recruitment Timeline

The board development committee should design and implement a process for board recruitment. A strong recruitment process can take about six months. It takes more time than most think to reflect on board practices, communicate with and recruit potential candidates, vet the candidates, and onboard those individuals. It includes everything from a board self-evaluation (which may include the demographic matrix) to applications to orientation.

The Board Application

Joining board should require a consistent process that reflects a higher level of volunteer commitment. One place to communicate that is with a board application. An application or opportunities form allows the candidates to understand the expectations and evaluate if they are a good fit. It also helps to gather consistent information by the board. Ultimately, board service should be a mutually beneficial fit and an application is one step in the process to make sure that happens. Your Executive Director and a Governance Committee member should follow up with an in-person conversation.


Retaining great board members relies on an effective orientation process. An orientation process is not handing a new board member a binder (electronic or print) of processes, policies, and practices. Any orientation should be conducted in person, using relevant documentation to compliment that in person conversation. Another great way to orient new board members is to use board buddies. This helps with both the technical and community aspects of board service.

These are just three of the topic we will touch on during the upcoming conference session. We would love to hear your questions, best practices, and responses here. Share what you know or would like to know!

About Emily
Emily Davis, MNM
Emily Davis is the President of Emily Davis Consulting, Fundraising and the Next Generation author; 21/64 multigenerational family philanthropy consultant; and BoardSource Senior Governance Consultant. She has served as a nonprofit founder, philanthropic grant maker, staff, and volunteer across a wide variety of organizations locally and nationally. She provides facilitation, consulting, and writing on topics for nonprofit and philanthropic leaders such as charitable advising, board governance, multigenerational issues, and nonprofit management. Emily has her Masters in Nonprofit Management from Regis University and serves as an adjunct professor in that program. Emily was recently named one of the 2015 40 Under Forty Young Business Leaders in Boulder Valley by BizWest.