Compare your Board’s current recruitment and orientation activities with Jean’s Checklist – make this an agenda item at an early Board meeting
1. Conduct a Board member skills audit to identify the gaps in skill, knowledge, etc. among current Board members, and contact appropriate persons to consider Board membership
a) check the rules in the constitution regarding the required number, category or qualifications and background of Board members
b) discuss the ideal Board membership to fulfill the governance role and function, including backgrounds, skills, abilities, interests, representation: this becomes the model of Board membership to work toward
c) identify gaps by comparing current skills with the ideal
d) if there are immediate vacancies, these should be filled as quickly as possible: plan to contact 4 – 5 people, as some may be interested in Board membership at some time in the future rather than at present
e) if your constitution states a minimum number of Board members, that is the number of active Board members that should always be in place
2. Explain the legal duties and obligations, role and responsibilities of a Board member to potential recruits, together with your organisation’s purpose, philosophy and goals.
3. Explain your reason for the approach, and your Board’s understanding of the value they may bring to the work of the Board. Variables that can affect individual responses to such an approach include:
a) previous experience as a Board member or office-bearer
b) current interests and aspirations, time commitments or constraints
c) confidence about their own potential or suitability
d) familiarity with the local community or with the nature of the organisation
e) possibility of frequent or unacceptable conflicts of interest
f) level of willingness to accept the duties and obligations of being a Board member
4. Where a potential recruit shows interest, offer a New Board Member’s Kit containing:
a) the legal duties and obligations, role and responsibilities of a Board member
b) the organisation’s purpose, philosophy and strategic direction
c) an overview of the services provided by the organisation
d) last 2 annual reports, including audited financial statements
e) current promotional material
f) names and positions held by current Board members
g) organisational chart, showing names of CEO/senior staff position, managers or supervisory staff
5. Offer an invitation to meet existing Board members and the CEO, attend a Board meeting as an observer, and undergo the process of election at the AGM – or appointment by the Board to fill a casual vacancy
a) Association, Company or Cooperative membership is usually a requirement for Board membership (check your Constitution)
b) the Board usually has power to fill casual vacancies (check your Constitution)
c) check with your Board members that they are willing to accept an observer to their meeting
6. Upon election or appointment, provide a list of reports received by Board members - making sure that jargon, terminology and acronyms are clarified - and a schedule of Board meeting dates and duties
a) don’t hold anything back: be open and honest about the actual workload associated with Board membership – and be positive about the nature and level of practical support available from existing Board members, CEO, advisors or peak bodies
b) the purpose of this information is to enable the new Board member to become an ‘effective’ Board member as quickly as possible – and, most importantly, to enjoy their involvement as much as possible
c) have the new Board member complete a Skills Audit, add to the total Board members’ responses and distribute the updated copy to all Board members: they should know, appreciate and respect each other’s skills and areas of expertise or interest
7. Arrange for an experienced Board member to act as mentor or buddy for a new Board member through their first three months
a) carefully select a mentor or buddy who is willing to enter this arrangement, and is sufficiently experienced to answer questions in an objective and helpful manner: mutual respect is essential in this relationship
b) the mentor or buddy and the new Board member should jointly plan a 3-month orientation to ensure a satisfactory experience for each party: note that time together could be useful during the week following – or the week prior to – a Board meeting
8. Provide a briefing with the Board Chairperson and CEO on current issues and initiatives, personal introduction to key persons within the organisation, and minutes of the past two or three Board meetings (the new Board member will already have their New Board Member’s Kit)
a) this will fully acquaint the new member with recent and current issues, actions and decisions – and on matters facing the Board in the near future
b) the mentor or buddy could accompany the new member to this briefing
c) the Board’s policies and procedures relating to confidentiality, privacy and conflict of interest should be reinforced in this briefing
9. The Chairperson or CEO to escort the new Board member on a tour of the facilities with an opportunity to see the services in operation, together with an explanation of the internal administration and financial systems and methods
a) this ‘tour’ should take place while the organisation is in full operation: if the organisation is multi-site over a distance, use of technology will reduce the time and cost of this orientation
b) staff and consumers should witness the seriousness with which the Board treats new Board member orientation and displays respect for new Board members
10. Ensure inclusion of the new Board member in regular Board training/development sessions on governance and related competencies and information
a) Board training and development should be a line item in the annual plan and budget
b) The Board is responsible for planning and implementing an annual Board Development Plan, based on the annual Board Member Skills Audit
11. Increasing involvement, commitment and effectiveness of the Board member should follow, together with confidence and knowledge of where to find or who to ask for further or specific information.
a) with strong support from the Board during recruitment and orientation, a new Board member should become confident and competent within their first year
b) the level of job satisfaction among all Board members should be monitored by the Chairperson through the year
12. The new Board member’s willingness to undertake additional Board responsibilities will increase as their maturity and confidence increases. This will lead to their involvement in active advocacy on behalf of the organisation and its services
a) as the majority of Board members increase their confidence and competence, it is wise to keep contacting people with desired skills and abilities who may consider Board membership at a later time
b) recruitment should be an ongoing activity, not just when there is a vacancy on the Board: potential Board members may be willing sub-committee members, or advisers or helpers on special Board projects or activities
13. Active involvement and participation in Board duties and responsibilities will increase
a) at this stage, the Board member should be making an active and positive contribution to the Board’s role and responsibilities
b) the Chairperson should regularly monitor the level of job satisfaction among both new and longer-term Board members, and address any issues raised by any Board member
14. Advocacy on behalf of the organisation and the service increases, eg. generating community involvement and support, willingness to accept Board office-bearer positions, and confidence in representing the Board and the organisation on external matters
a) there is great benefit for an organisation whose Board members have a strong knowledge and understanding of the Board’s role and of the organisation’s purpose and achievements
b) the challenge now is to retain such a Board member – make sure they are given appropriate responsibilities such as policy development, forward or financial planning, submissions or grant applications
Suggestions to involve people who may be interested in Board membership ‘later on’
1. invite one or two people with appropriate skills or expertise to work with the Board or a sub-committee on a specific project or task, eg exploring investment options, preparing the annual budget, designing a campaign for community contact or association member recruitment: these can be done without joining the Board
2. ask busy people to make a specific short-term commitment, eg two evenings a month for three months to solve a specific problem or plan a new project
Discuss the reasons given by people who choose not to join the Board, as their reasons may indicate some remedies or improvements are needed
1. is the public image of the organisation somewhat foggy?
2. are meeting times inconvenient?
3. are people wary of being ‘worked to death’ by yet another voluntary Board?
4. do people feel that present Board members may not welcome them?
5. do people really understand the purpose and services of the organisation?
6. when approaching a potential member, do current members speak positively about joining and about their own experiences as a member… or do they ask apologetically and therefore almost invite a refusal?