Not For Profit Board Appointments

It can be difficult making board member appointments to your Not For Profit, particularly if your organisation’s profile is not high and the remuneration on offer is hovering around zero. But here are some best practice tips and pitfalls to avoid.

Sell the sizzle

Good board members don’t need more board appointments, particularly unpaid ones. So they need to be attracted and inspired and this requires you to sell the sizzle. Highlight the change you are trying to make in the world, the calibre of current board members, the quality of the existing governance process, or some upcoming major events. Failing that, be honest and focus on the challenge!

Two- or three-line position descriptions don’t cut it. Not only does the lack of detail fail to capture interest, but it reeks of “we haven’t thought too much about this”. First impressions do count.

Applications close soon

Human nature sees many individuals submit their application on the last day. Extending the closing date just prolongs the process and frustrates board members who applied early (as they wait to hear the outcome). Worse still are roles that state “open until filled”, as there is an insufficient call to action, and it may look like you are struggling to fill the vacancy. We suggest a period of three weeks for positions to remain open.

Ditch the application forms

The application process should be as simple and convenient as possible, with few barriers put in the way of busy directors.

Sure, request that specific questions be addressed in a cover letter but don’t ask for information that is more than likely found on a CV. If you really require authority for background checks or a statement that the CV is true and correct, issue this request at the interview stage or simply to the final candidate.

Give feedback promptly

Don’t leave the sending of “thanks but no thanks” emails until your board member is appointed – it’s too long. Send “no” emails to the definite ‘nos’ and a “we’re still considering you so please bear with us” email when you require more time.

Displaying this respect to all applicants creates a lasting brand experience. Remember that a candidate who is not right for this role may be a great board appointment fit in subsequent years.

Board diversity

If you have two people on the board who think the same… you don’t need one of them!

Diversity of board members brings different thinking, leading to stronger decision making. It also demonstrates to your members that individuals of different backgrounds are welcome in your sector and are represented around the top table.

To attract a diverse board, make sure:

  • the board appointments panel itself is diverse and has independent representation
  • the position brief isn’t unconsciously biased so that it excludes certain demographics
  • you specifically encourage applications from a certain section of the community
  • you advertise the role to as diverse an audience as possible (e.g. through Appoint Better Boards).