Board Recruitment – Who are you looking for?

When considering a board for your organisation, it is critically important to consider who would make a good member for your board and why.

Your governing document is the rule book for the way your organisation is governed. This must be the first place to look for terms of office, eligibility, procedures for election and so on.

Even if your members elect your new board members, it is still worth thinking about who would make a good board member to ensure that people with the right skills and experience put themselves forward.

Often in membership organisations, the board is able to recommend a preferred candidate for election based on an assessment of what skills and experience would be most valuable to the board and the governance of the organistaion. This makes this wider process incredibly valuable.

What skills and experience would you like to find?

Ask yourselves what skills and experience you need to make your board more effective. It could be that by talking to each other, you are able to decide on the skills and experience you would ideally want your new board member to have. If you cannot identify the skills that are needed you may want to complete Activity 2: How to identify skills and experience (highly recommended).

Remember, it is useful to have people on board with a background in your sport, but there may be other attributes that are required.

Are you looking for someone who doesn’t exist?

It can be difficult to balance all the things that you want from a new board member, being sensible as to people you are able to attract. Ensure that what you are asking for is what you really do need. For example, do you need someone with a qualification in accountancy if your organisation has a very small income? Would someone with bookkeeping skills or experience of managing their own finances be able to do the job?

Communication skills, team working, enthusiasm and the time to commit to the organisation may be just as valid as any formal qualifications you think you might need.

When looking for skills of board members there is always a need to get the right balance between specific skills and wider experience, and sporting experience. There is no right or wrong way to get the balance right – in some cases sporting experience may also vary with relevant skills.

In other cases you may decide that sporting experience is not a top priority and to appoint a board member who has specific skills that are required.  Appointing board members from outside sport may help to avoid the dominance of sport-based decisions and may help ensure there are no conflicts of interest.

When deciding where the balance is, a number of factors should be considered:

  • the balance which is currently represented on the board
  • the skills required to effectively govern the organisation
  • future challenges to the organisation

You could also consider what the appropriate skills balance on your board is in light of other options available for helping to run the organisation, such as using staff, volunteers and others stakeholders for specific tasks or activities.

If you decide it is important for all your board members to have experience of your sport, it must be noted that you are potentially cutting down your candidate pool. You should also ensure your board has the appropriate skills and experience to fulfil their role and responsibilities regardless of their sporting background.

Where you have a representative board you will find that your board may be made up of people who hold regional positions and automatically become a member of your board. This will dictate a sporting background.  However it is worth publicising to your membership the need for board members to bring a professional skill to the board – by publicising the role the person will be doing, you may be able to help your members appoint people with the right skills.

This approach may be useful for you even if you cannot appoint board members, eg, you can use it to help promote and develop the individual and collective roles of your board and its members.

Can you tell people about the role?

Being on a board is not widely understood among the general public. Most people wouldn’t put themselves forward for something they don’t understand, so you need to find a way to describe the role.

Role descriptions and person specifications are often associated more with paid positions, but they can be an effective tool to help people understand what is required of them.

Organisations should be profiling and promoting the work of the board continually and not just when they are recruiting. A good example of this is Volleyball England, who profile a board member in their CEO News bulletins to promote and demystify the role of their board. See attached examples.

If your organisation already has role descriptions and person specifications for board members, these can be reviewed and made available to those who express an interest. You could also use extracts in any advertising you do.

If you don’t have a role description and person specification, you may want to work as a group to develop them. Take a look at Activity 3: Create a Role description.

Why would anyone put themselves forward?

You should think about how to ‘sell’ the role to someone and to do this it may be helpful to understand what might motivate potential board members to join you.

What motivated you to join your board and what motivates you to stay? What might motivate others? What can you offer to potential board members? The last point is particularly important if you are trying to attract people who do not have a background in your sport.

A key point to remember is that one reason for volunteering to become a board member is no more valid than any other reason. Activity 4: board member motivations, can help you do just this. However, understanding what motivates someone is key to attracting and keeping new board members.

See below for examples of activities 2-4