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Four Steps to a Better Board, Part 3: Marshal Your Members

Take another step toward a high-performance board with part three of our Better Board primer, from the GCN Nonprofit Consulting Group team. In this step learn how to secure the human resources you need by analyzing your assets, determining your needs, and filling in the gaps.

GCN's approach to board development follows four steps:

1. Determine the focus of the board
2. Establish the board’s organization structure
3. Secure needed board member resources
4. Support working relationships among board members & key staff

This article focuses on securing needed human resources to meet the governance responsibilities outlined in steps one and two. 

Once your board has determined its focus and developed the structure, it needs to meet that focus, the next step is to identify and secure board members with the skills, experience, and diversity to govern.

To do that, we’ll follow these steps:

  • Develop a matrix of existing board resources and needs to be filled
  • Determine the size of the governance board
  • Assign recruitment responsibility to a committee
  • Recruit and orient new board members
  • Assign new board members according to their interests and capabilities

Needs Assessment

The first step is to assess what your board has, and what it needs, to complete its governance work. Try listing needed skills, experience and diversity on the vertical axis of a spreadsheet, and the names of current board members on the horizontal axis. You can than check off the qualities your current board possesses, and set about recruiting for those qualities left unchecked.

Board Size

These qualities are your primary board recruitment goals, but quantity must also be considered. Your board should be large enough to fulfill committee and task force work without overburdening individual board members, but not so large that board members will be left uninvolved. There is also the distinction to be made between governing members, who make decisions for the nonprofit, and volunteer support. Often, people willing to donate their talents to a nonprofit don’t want to attend monthly meetings or take on the responsibility of overseeing a nonprofit. These volunteers should be regarded as valuable committee members and advisory board members, with the potential to become governance board members in the future.

Your board should be able to attract and maintain a board that supports your organization’s work and meets the needs of individual board members.

Recruitment Responsibilities

Though it’s the responsibility of all board members and the executive director to recruit new board members, you’ll need to assign responsibility for managing the recruitment process to a Governance or Board Development committee, or, in the case of a smaller board, a task ream assigned by the Executive Committee.

The Board Development committee will establish the process through which board members and the executive director recruit and select new members, and support each recruiter’s efforts, and bring recruits to the board for a vote. This process should be well-defined, including an approach to identifying, screening, interviewing, and selecting new board members, as well as a specific number of new board members needed.


Once new board members have agreed to join, there should be an established orientation process to fill in new board members on how the organization functions, their role as board members, and the kinds of work they can get involved in. Typically, this too is the responsibility of the Governance or Board Development committee. There should be a section in the Board Governance Manual that outlines the orientation process, and each new board member should also be familiarized with the nonprofit’s by-laws.

New Member Assignments

Finally, new board members need to be assigned, or assign themselves, to one or more board committees. Match new board members to committee assignments that meets their interests, skills and experiences, but also supports the vital work needed to meet governance responsibilities.

When you follow the above steps, your board should be able to attract and maintain a board that supports your organization’s work and meets the needs of individual board members.

Working with a diverse group of organizations, GCN’s Nonprofit Consulting Group team is uniquely positioned to help nonprofit and philanthropic leaders build strong organizations that accelerate growth and social impact through a broad range of projects that help build capacity, navigate change, and maximize impact. Learn more at GCN.org/Nonprofit-Consulting-Group and contact us at [email protected]

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