How to recruit Board members for non-profit organisations

8 minutes
Matt Adams
Emma Patmore

By Matt Adams & Emma Patmore

The nonprofit sector plays a vital role in addressing society's biggest challenges. From fundraising for charitable causes to promoting advocacy and awareness, charities and nonprofit board members go above and beyond to help communities navigate through difficult times. The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the sector and highlighted its existing problems, such as limited resources, financial constraints, and poor staff retention. 

Research has shown that 60% of charities experienced a loss of income during the pandemic, a figure that underlines the financial struggles that the voluntary sector currently faces. Given this concerning trend, it is crucial for charities and non-profits to recruit high-quality board members who have the talent required to ensure success is maintained. 

Recruiting the best and brightest to join your organisation’s board is no easy feat, and it is key that you find a candidate who has leadership skills, and a clear passion for the cause. Factors such as time restrictions, skills shortages, and volunteer reliance damage charity and non-profit recruitment, so finding ideal applicants can be tricky. However, with the right recruitment strategy in place, you’ll be able to hire exceptional board members who share your vision. 

In this guide, we’ll explore some top tips for recruiting board members and examine the various issues that affect non-profit and charity recruitment. 

Roles and Responsibilities of Non-Profit Boards

The roles and responsibilities of non-profit board members differ from their corporate counterparts. For starters, boards in the corporate sector answer to their companies’ shareholders, whereas non-profit boards are accountable to the communities they serve and legally accountable to the Charity Commission/Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator/Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, which regulates Charities across the UK. Non-profit board members are tasked with safeguarding their organisations’ financial solvency and ensuring they make a tangible difference to the causes they champion too.

There is an array of specific duties that non-profit board members are responsible for, and here are just a few: 

1. Shape the Organisation’s Vision 

Coming up with a meaningful mission statement is one of the most essential tasks that non-profit boards are responsible for. Many might assume that a voluntary organisation’s vision is determined in its startup phase, but owing to a multitude of factors, it is commonplace for goals and ambitions to change over time in line with societal and economic shifts. It is crucial for board members to clearly communicate their aims and ambitions to everyone in the organisation to ensure a unified effort. 

2. Ensure Financial Stability 

As well as promoting the organisation’s aspirations, non-profit board members must also develop an effective financial strategy. They must pay close attention to the costs involved in programs and services and assess how their organisation’s outgoings align with the budget. Maintaining financial stability is also key when it comes to approaching new donors; if they can see that your organisation is in a strong financial position, they’re more likely to donate. Visibility and transparency regarding your financial situation are also important, and you should proactively reach out to donors to inform them of your finances in order to maintain trust.  

3. Monitor and Evaluate Success

A key duty for non-profit boards is to assess whether their organisations’ methods have a tangible impact. For instance, Board Members may monitor the success of programmes to establish how well they are meeting the charity’s goals and objectives, and look at the effectiveness of their fundraising campaigns. If they find that they need to reevaluate their methods, they could develop and implement pilot schemes to test out new approaches. 

4. Empowering Volunteers 

Non-profit board members should go the extra mile to motivate and empower volunteers. This will demonstrate that they truly value their volunteers’ expertise and passion for the cause, and retention rates will likely improve. Members can empower their volunteers in a number of ways, such as listening to and acting on their feedback, regularly showing appreciation, providing sufficient resources and perhaps even offer board shadowing opportunities

 5. Enhance the Organisation’s Public Reputation 

One of the main concerns for non-profit boards is to boost their public reputation. By achieving an esteemed reputation, you’ll be more likely to draw support from volunteers and potential donors. Promoting testimonials and success stories, engaging in thought leadership, and championing transparent practices are just a few of the ways non-profits can enhance their standing in the voluntary sector. 

Colleagues have a discussion at a table'

Challenges Facing Non-Profit Recruitment 

Before starting your search for your next board member, it is important to consider the numerous challenges affecting the non-profit sector. Many charities and non-profit organisations have been affected by financial constraints, poor volunteer retention, and ever-increasing demand for services. 

Here are some of the most significant issues affecting non-profit recruitment: 

  • Reduced budget and resources. Many non-profit organisations lack the internal capacity and resources to conduct efficient, open Board recruitment processes. In particular, income from Government grants and contracts has decreased dramatically in the past few years, which has left the sector operating to incredibly tight budgets.
  • Limited candidate pool. It is common practice for non-profit organisations to hire candidates with a specific skill set, whether it be for a fundraising, marketing, or financial management role. Finding a high-calibre candidate with the ideal combination of professional expertise, a passion for the organisation’s cause and the desire to volunteer time as a Trustee can be a tall order. 
  • Time commitment. Non-profit board members typically carry out their duties in a voluntary capacity and are expected to commit their time to attending board meetings. Having to strike a balance between personal, professional, and voluntary time can be difficult. This is why it is crucial to outline the expected commitment at the start of the hiring process. 
  • Lack of diversity and inclusion. Having people of all backgrounds represented is a surefire way of instilling public trust in charities and non-profit organisations. However, like many industries, the voluntary sector is facing a diversity and inclusion challenge, and figures show that the number of volunteers from ethnic minority backgrounds has dropped. Limited representation of minority groups at board level can undermine the public’s confidence in an organisation’s ability to serve all sections of the community. 

Are you a non-profit organisation experiencing these recruitment challenges? Discover our resources and support services.


Top Tips For Recruiting Board Members for Non-Profits

Recruiting top talent to join your non-profit organisation’s board will boost your public brand, help you draw in more donations, and further the cause you so passionately believe in. For this reason, it is crucial to run an inclusive, open recruitment process that enables you to hire a candidate who possesses all of the relevant attributes for the role in question and demonstrates an unwavering commitment to your organisation’s cause. Here are five tips that will help you recruit your ideal board member: 

1. Establish Your Needs

First things first, you need to work out what you are looking for in a board member. This will give your recruitment strategy a clear direction and will help to ensure that your chosen candidate is a perfect match. You could conduct a Board Skills Audit

and consult your other board members and senior staff to identify particular skills that your organisation requires. For instance, if your board is lacking someone with legal expertise, you may wish to pursue a solicitor or other legal professional.  

2. Search for Suitable Applicants

Once you have created a suitable role title and description, you can post your job advertisement. If you have included a specific and detailed  role description, chances are that the majority of applications you receive will be from potential who align with your mission and goals. Though all non-profit board member jobs are unique, there are numerous general characteristics that a candidate going for a non-profit board position should display, including: 

  • Devotion to the cause 
  • Passionate about expressing ideas
  • Curiosity to learn more about the organisation 
  • Leadership qualities 
  • Excellent written and verbal communication 

Posting your board member jobs on specialist job boards is sure to attract top applicants. Examples of job boards include: 

  • Women on Boards 
  • ICAEW Volunteers
  • Charity Jobs
  • The Guardian 
  • Volunteering Matters 
  • Young Trustee Movement 

If you don’t necessarily have the time to oversee the entirety of the recruitment process yourselves, you hire a specialist recruitment agency like TPP. When you register a job with us, one of our expert consultants will be in touch to talk about how we can support you.  

3. Ask Key Interview Questions 

After you’ve made a shortlist of your top picks, you need to draw up a list of questions for the interview stage. Rather than focusing purely on a candidate’s experience and professional ability, you also need to ask questions that assess whether they’ll be able to fully commit to the role. The ideal candidate will share your values, seamlessly fit in with your culture, and fulfil all practical and legal obligations. 

 Examples of key questions include: 

  • Do you have the time to serve our board? 
  • Explain how you have demonstrated your commitment to organisations like ours. 
  • Can you fulfil our board’s fiduciary and legal oversight responsibilities?
  • Do you have any conflicts of interest? 

In addition to interviewing applicants, you could invite them to attend a board meeting as an observer or ask them to volunteer for an hour or so. These exercises give candidates an insight into what it's like to work for your organisation and give you the chance to see whether they’re a good fit. 

4. Strive for Diversity 

Much of the work that the non-profit sector carries out is for the betterment of marginalised communities, so it is crucial that those communities are represented by the non-profit organisations that support them. A diverse board that includes members from all walks of life will give your organisation a broader range of perspectives and valuable insights. Research has shown that 29% of high-income charity boards are all white, a statistic that highlights the need for the sector as a whole to promote diversity at board level. 

You can implement various strategies to attract a diverse pool of candidates, such as adding a statement of inclusivity on your job posting, creating a board diversity policy, and providing diversity training. When it comes to interviewing candidates, having a diverse interview panel will demonstrate your dedication to diversity and equality and help avoid bias, showcase your work culture, and enhance decision-making. Whether you are thinking about Board diversity for the first time or you represent an organisation looking for the latest trends in inclusive recruitment, our specialist team at TPP is here to guide you through your D&I journey

5. Comprehensive Onboarding 

Once you have recruited your new board member, you should provide them with a formal orientation program. Your new colleague will be excited to hear all about your organisation’s history, philosophy, and day-to-day operations, so it is imperative that you keep them in the loop. 

Your orientation program could take the form of a swift, two-hour session or a more detailed two-day course. It also offers you the opportunity to inform them of best practices, expectations, and your work culture. To really make them feel involved and appreciated, you could ask them to attend an organisational event or invite them to your board’s management platform. 

Final Thoughts

Recruiting high-quality board members is essential for the success and sustainability of non-profit organisations. Despite the challenges faced by the sector, such as limited resources, financial constraints, and poor volunteer retention, it is crucial to find board members who possess the necessary skills, passion, and commitment to drive the organisation forward.

Overcoming recruitment challenges requires strategic approaches such as establishing specific needs, searching for suitable applicants, asking key interview questions, striving for diversity, and providing comprehensive orientation programs. By implementing our top tips for recruiting board members, non-profit organisations can attract exceptional talent and positively impact the communities they serve.

Colleagues collaborating

Learn More About Our Work in Non-Profit and Charity Recruitment 

Are you an accomplished professional looking for the latest non-profit board member positions? Or perhaps you are a non-profit organisation looking to recruit exceptional candidates for your available board member jobs? At TPP, we understand the challenges that come with non-profit and charity recruitment and through our expertise, you’ll be able to hire your perfect candidate. 

We regularly recruit for board member jobs, and our consultants are passionate about connecting top-quality candidates with their dream roles. If you’d like to learn more about what we have achieved, be sure to check out our comprehensive About Us page. Additionally, if you want to discover more about our recruitment services, we encourage you to read them here.  

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