Board Composition and Recruitment

Given the tremendous responsibility and decision-making power of boards, and the length of most board members’ tenures, making sure you have the right composition of leaders on your board is absolutely fundamental.


As any effective leader knows, making sure you have the right people on your team is absolutely fundamental. For boards, this is no less important, particularly given the tremendous responsibility and decision-making power that boards have, and the length of most board members’ tenures. There’s no question about it: Without the right people around the table, it is difficult for any board to provide effective leadership.

So what does it take to build and maintain a strong and effective board? According to Leading with Intent, the most successful boards are thoughtfully composed as it relates to skill sets, leadership styles, and diversity of thought and background. They understand the leadership needs of their organizations and seek out board leaders who can bring the expertise, passion, and external leadership that they need both now and into the future.

For many boards, that starts with a board matrix — an inventory of the perspectives, skill sets, and leadership characteristics that are needed for the board overall, and where there are — or will be — gaps, based on the board’s current composition. This inventory includes having a thoughtful discussion of whether or not the board reflects the diversity of the community it serves and, if not, the signal that sends to the external world about who your organization is and what it values. BoardSource cautions boards, however, from using a “checklist” approach to board recruitment, especially when it comes to board diversity. No board candidate should be reduced to a demographic profile, and boards are wise to think about holistic and multi-faceted leadership profiles that value diversity within the context of other stated leadership needs.

Visit the Board Recruitment Center for more resources.

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Guides, Tools, Templates, and Infographics


Written Resources

All 101-level topical resources listed below are available publicly. BoardSource members have access to 101, 201, and 301- level resources. Don’t forget to visit the BoardSource store or the Board Recruitment Center for more resources and training on this topic.

Beyond Political Correctness: Building a Diverse and Inclusive Board

101| Community resource. Exceptional nonprofit boards recognize that diversity is essential to an organization’s success. They see the correlation between mission, strategy, and board composition and understand that establishing an inclusive organization starts with establishing a diverse and inclusive board.

Board Members as Providers of Professional Services

201| Members only resource. Should technical specialty be a necessary criterion for board service? In all-volunteer organizations, professional skills are particularly helpful. However, experts and representatives of specific fields can find themselves in a difficult position of trying to define their role as an active and contributing board member while being expected to perform professional services for the organization.

Board Recruitment Process

101| Community resource. Having an organized board recruitment process in place not only makes it possible to fill vacancies on a board in an effective and speedy manner, but it creates a foundation for building a skillful and diverse board. It allows the organization to cultivate potential candidates and to prepare them to join the board when the time is right.

Board Size: Finding the Sweet Spot

101 | Community resource. Wondering if your board has hit its sweet spot when it comes to size? This resource is designed to help you answer this question.

Building a Nonprofit Board for the First Time

101| Community resource. After determining that there is no other organization to partner with, the first challenge for a founder of a new nonprofit organization is to build a board. This is not a simple task, and involves more than just finding a group of dedicated people.

Clients on a Nonprofit Board

201| Members only resource. It is natural for those receiving services from a nonprofit — or their family members — to want to serve on the board both to give back and to influence how the organization functions. There hardly is a more direct way to shape the focus of the organization. There is also no better way for the organization to ensure representation and voice of the community you serve.

How to Involve Former Board Members

201| Members only resource. Many boards struggle when a valuable board member’s term is up and it seems a waste to let them fade into the distance. The board member’s experience and insight could still benefit the organization but the bylaws don’t include a structured way to make this happen. Here are some ideas for showing appreciation for former board members’ service.

Joining a Nonprofit Board

101| Community resource. People have countless reasons for wanting to become nonprofit board members. Most individuals have well-informed, honorable intentions, and with guidance, they have the potential to have fulfilling board experiences. But occasionally, motivations are misinformed, wholly self-serving, or simply not constructive.

Need for Legal Assistance

201| Members only resource. Numerous nonprofit boards find it highly desirable to recruit lawyers as board members. The expected role of the attorney is to keep the board aware of and in compliance with all the legal requirements that may affect its members as fiduciaries of the organization.

Nepotism and Boards

201| Members-only resource. Nepotism — the practice of showing favoritism toward relatives — usually falls under the purview of management when hiring practices come under scrutiny and supervisory relationships are challenged. Governance can also become a victim of nepotism when family members or close relatives work or serve together.

Questions to Ask Before Joining a Board

101| Community resource. If you are considering board service, do your due diligence. Learn as much as you can about the organization beforehand. Ask questions about the following.

Reimagining Boards for High Impact

101| Community resource. What if leaders could grow their impact without growing their organizations? Read six primary areas where boards can focus their energy to strengthen community relationships and dramatically increase their impact.

Removing a Board Member

201| Members only resource. Managing difficult board members is one of the board chair’s toughest tasks. Differences of opinion are common but that is not a reason for removing a board member. However, a board member who is not able to fulfill his or her individual responsibilities, who does not abide by the rules set by the board, or who displays illegal and unethical behavior does not belong in the boardroom.

Sample Board Member Job Description

101| Community resource. As the highest leadership body of the organization and to satisfy its fiduciary duties, the board is responsible for the following.

Sample Board Member Job Posting (Advocacy Expertise)

101| Community resource. This sample is intended to provide you with a template for developing your board postings and is designed for use with LinkedIn Board Connect. Please customize it to meet your needs.

Transitioning from Working Board to Governing Board

201| Members only resource. If an organization grows as hoped and planned for, a “working board” will eventually reach a point when it’s time to transfer the organization’s management, administration, and operations to staff and staff-led volunteers.

Youth Board Service

201| Members only resource. More and more boards are dedicating time and effort to create youth partnerships. They are finding the youth perspective to be helpful, enlightening, and an asset. There are also some challenges for making it work. There are benefits and challenges of youth board service. For the purposes of this paper, youth, young people or minors are defined as age 18 and under.