When you think about your organization, what you want to achieve and what you need to do to achieve it, do you think about the kind of board you need?
Many boards give this too little thought. Membership on some of these boards is the result of friendships, who could be talked into serving or even people who want to be on the board to promote their own agendas. As a result, the board often lacks the discipline, knowledge and skills to govern the organization.
One way to address this issue is to develop a target board profile. This is relatively easy to develop and can be a great tool when you recruit new board members. Think about your strategy and the role the board plays in achieving your strategic goals as well as operational skills you may need if the board members also take on operational responsibilities. Think about the perspectives and knowledge you need on the board (stakeholders, community representation, etc) to ensure informed decision-making. What would your ideal board look like? Make a list of the attributes. For example:
- Diversity to represent the community you serve
- At least one person who has the skills and desire to be Chair
- 2 or 3 people who have intimate knowledge of the community you serve
- At least one person who has the skills and desire to be Treasurer
- At least 3 people who live in the community you serve
The attributes needed will differ by organization – what you do, whether or not the board also takes on operational responsibilities, who your key stakeholders are. It will also change over time so the board should review the target profile whenever there is an opening on the board.
Once the board has developed the target profile, compare the current board to the profile and identify your gaps. Then, when you recruit new board members, intentionally recruit members to fill the gaps. This will move you closer to your target profile over time and improve the governance of your organization.
Remember that recruiting new board members is a key governance responsibility of the board. The board should develop a target profile and use it as vacancies occur to improve the membership of the board and the governance of the organization.