Board Recruitment Demonstration Project

Hildy Gottlieb, a highly respected author and consultant to nonprofits, is leading the creation of a new charitable nonprofit, Creating the Future (CtF), that will recruit its founding board based on the process outlined on her best-selling board recruitment manual.  Gottlieb describes the three critical sets of qualities to be considered:

  1. The Must-Have Qualities: Those qualities we want to be sure every single board member has.
  2. The “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” Qualities: Those qualities it would be nice if some had, but they don’t all need to have (money, connections, expertise in specific areas of the mission, etc.).
  3. The “Never in a Million Years” Qualities: Those qualities that, without being explicit about them, we are often willing to overlook as we seek folks in the “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” category. (i.e. “He’s loud-mouthed and has ego issues, but heck – he’s got money…”).

She then invited the readers of her blog to share their thoughts.  This fascinating discussion can be found here.


The following is a reprint of just my contribution to this discussion (admittedly with some repetition of previous points raised by other contributors):

Must Have:

  • a team player who is likely to fit well with this team
  • a person who is interested in, and committed to, planning and oversight (programmatic, administrative, resource acquisition, and financial)
  • a person who will speak up when he or she identifies an opportunity or threat (a key to social change is the ability to exploit an unexpected opportunity; a key to failure is the inability to manage an unexpected threat)
  • a person who will leverage his or her resources (not just financial) to further the organization’s mission* a person who will insist upon collaborations and movement-building
  • a person who wants the board to discuss and establish the organization’s diversity-related goals
  • a visionary (a luxury for most board, but a necessity for this one)

Wouldn’t It be Nice:

  • a compelling, well-spoken ambassador of the organization
  • someone with a wealthy array of resources to contribute, but who doesn’t act like that makes him or her more important than other directors
  • someone with expertise in an area of great importance to CtF

Never in a Million Years:

  • a person not committed to showing up and participating at a majority of board and committee meetings
  • an ego-driven, power-hungry person who seeks to dominate discussions and impose his or her views without actively listening to others
  • a person who values his or her place on the board above the organization’s mission
  • a person who believes in a consensus decision-making process (radical changes tend not to come from consensus models)
  • a person who favors a voting membership structure for CtF (i.e., members who elect the directors and have a set of other statutory rights), although I might be convinced otherwise under special circumstances

I encourage you to read and contribute to the terrific discussion.  Legal compliance is certainly correlated to a strong, thoughtfully-recruited board.