Expert Coaching. Practical Resources.

February 22, 2024

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Rose Mercier

How to Find the Right People for Your Board – Always a Question 

It is essential that whoever sits around the board table or appears in the squares of the virtual meeting are the ‘right fit’ for the board. It’s the right fit because they have the skills, attributes, experience and commitment the board needs to govern effectively. 

As a result, Board succession is a preoccupation of many boards no matter how board members come to sit on the board. They arrive via different routes depending on organization’s foundational legislation, incorporating documents or bylaws: 

  • Elected by a membership 
  • Chosen in a public election 
  • Appointed by municipal council or state or provincial public appointments office 
  • Recruited by a nomination committee and elected by the board 
  • Acclaimed because someone is the last person at the meeting who is willing to stand. (Don’t laugh, I have seen this happen.) 

We have written about this topic often which is obvious in our past blog posts1 And just last month we had a free webinar2 on this topic which was well attended. We asked participants to post their questions. We provided written responses and then decided that others might also be interested in these questions. We’ll share others in future blogs. 

QUESTION: When reaching out within our networks for board recruitment (professional association), we perpetuate the perception that it is who you know on how to get on the board. Any suggestions on how to mitigate this? 

Most professional associations we have worked with are membership organizations and have an election process in which members elect candidates. This means recruitment can be done reasonably transparently – making known to all members the desirable attributes and commitment for board members and the ways in which members can nominate someone or even put their name forward. You can also identify that board members or the nominating committee plan to directly contact individuals who have previously indicated an interest, individuals who have served on committees or volunteered for different activities. Then invite anyone interested to contact a nominating committee member. 

Once there is a slate, you might consider identifying how the candidate was nominated or by whom. You might consider having all candidates answer a series of questions and publish the responses in the nominations package for members to get an idea of potential candidates’ perspectives or values. 

QUESTION: Our Board is a locally elected school board … we are restricted from influencing the community on how they vote, however I believe we can be involved with doing some recruitment and tapping.  Could you perhaps elaborate on this scenario? 

We suggest closely examining the specifics of the restrictions and applying methods we spoke about in the webinar which would be allowed.  

For example, we expect that the restrictions would prevent your board from recommending candidates. Would those restrictions prevent you from publishing what you seek regarding skills, attitudes, etc.? Would those restrictions prevent you from publishing the answers that candidates provide to questions that help the voters determine how well candidates align with the board’s needs? 

We suggest that you stay away from seeking candidates aligned to particular issues or platforms, although we realize that those are often what compels someone to run for a trustee position on a school board. 

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