ASU Lodestar Center Blog

Current nonprofit sector research and recommendations for effective day-to-day practice from ASU faculty, staff, students, and the nonprofit and philanthropic community.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 8:20am
posted by
Jessie Singer,
Executive Director
Dysart Community Center

Being an Executive Director of a small organization, I often get asked how I recruit board members and where I find them. I think my tactics can be applicable for any geographically-based nonprofit, a start-up organization, or any smaller nonprofit seeking new members.

When I am seeking new board members I start with our own volunteer base. I sit down with the Board President and Volunteer Coordinator to identify those individuals who are going above and beyond their volunteer duties, are passionate about our mission, and have proven to the staff that they are committed to our organization. These are the individuals who often express their gratitude to the staff every time they stop in, they walk in with a huge smile on their face, act as a community advocate, and believe in our mission. These are the unsung heroes of the organization that deserve to have a larger role because they are exactly the type of board member that you want.

Dysart Community Center is located in the Northwest Valley, so when recruiting new board members, we look local. It does not make sense for us to recruit individuals from East Phoenix because it is a rather long drive for a volunteer commitment. Therefore, we focus our efforts on those who live west of the I-17 and look for other community groups with community-minded individuals. For example, we seek out local service groups such as Kiwanis, Rotaries, etc., and also partner with our local religious affiliates to find community leaders.  It is usually very clear who the leaders are of these organizations because whether they are in-front speaking to the group, or behind the scenes, they are the ones who approach us afterward to see how they can best support the organization and what they can do to help. 

It is important to note that the board and executive director do have a matrix, at least in mind, of the skills that are needed on the board of directors. It could be that we are seeking someone with a financial background, an individual who knows how to build community relationships and/or a potential candidate who is interested in fundraising. Granted, we look for the passionate individuals, but we also account for the needs of our board and potential members who can fill those gaps.

Upon approaching new board members we let these individuals know the value they bring to the organization and that they have been hand-selected. It is important these individuals understand that by doing their daily volunteering, they have stood out. It is a huge compliment to be asked and selected as a potential board member. From there it is up to the board president, the executive director and/or the board nominating committee to determine with the potential candidate if it is a good fit for everyone involved. The particular individual may not be able to make the commitment, so it is important to be certain the person is ready to become a board member.

My recommendation is to “start local” next time you are looking and don’t forget to target those outstanding volunteers who are already committed to your organization. It is a great way to recognize someone for going above and beyond and supporting your organization. Now the next step is how to do some basic board development training, but we’ll leave that for another blog post! Happy Recruitment!

Jessie is Executive Director of Dysart Community Center. She was recruited for her passion, drive, and commitment to serving others who are seeking to reach the “American Dream.” Jessie comes to Phoenix from Chicago before she made the move to Tucson to become a Wildcat for life! She is Board Member for YNPN Phoenix and a recent graduate of the 2011-2012 Generation Next Nonprofit Leadership Academy. She believes that young nonprofit leaders are going to move Phoenix into the forefront of the nonprofit industry.

Like this article? Get another!

Click here to read "Seven Key Skills of High Impact Nonprofit Leaders," by Karen Ramsey.



I really appreciate that you didn't mention a potential board member's rank in a company who may be potential donors as criteria for selection! In my experience, some organizations want high-powered board members to make their organization look good and to attract their company's funding. I think finding board members from volunteers and selecting candidates based on their talents and dedication is a much better way to find someone who will be an advocate for your mission and take their role as a board member seriously. Thanks for your ideas!

This recruitment process is brilliant in its simplicity. It makes perfect sense to choose board member from outstanding volunteers, this way you know this person is passionate about the cause and also knows what goes into the position to make the program run smoothly. Many times when people think of board members money is all that comes to mind. In this process money is not the deciding factor, passion is and that it was will make a strong board and organization. Recognizing outstanding behavior and rewarding it in such a big way, I feel is an excellent process for recruiting new board members.

I enjoyed reading your post, seeing as how you speak from experience. I think the idea of selecting board members from within the organization is key to making sure meetings and the work board members take on are taken seriously. My only comment would be in regards to your statement regarding not 'recruiting volunteers' from the east side of town when the place is in the North-west side, I believe that if there's volunteers who live a different part of town who volunteer at a given site, show dedication and have had some kind of connection with the organization; it would not be right not to ask if they would like to be part of the board. For example, I live in Buckeye but do all of my volunteering in Downtown Phoenix in organizations I am committed to; I think it would be wrong if, and quite frankly, disappointing to hear I couldn't be part of a board because of where I lived. I understand your advice is to start local, however, have you experienced any drawbacks from recruiting out side the local area? Also in regards to letting the recruits know they have been hand selected, do you think this adds pressure or gives them a sense of importance? I thank you for you post as it was very insightful and look forward to your next post regarding 'basic board development training'.

Very informative blog post, thank you for sharing! Having taken a few nonprofit classes I have learned that it's important to have diverse members from all areas. However, I couldn't agree more with your recruitment process for the Dysart Community Center. It would only make sense to have board members who use the community center, but also live in the area so that they understand the clientele.

I agree with you that there are those people that help out organizations, and are extremely loyal, and yet never receive any recognition. They are not allowed to even add any input into what the companies goals are. These are the people that make the company, and should be given a voice. In a nonprofit it is about serving people, and who better to guide a company than the ones who are out their doing it every day.

I am in total agreement with Rachael G's comment about this process being "brilliant in its simplicity". As I was reading this I definitely had one of those moments where you hit yourself over the head saying, "Duh! Why didn't I think of that?"
Not only is it a sweet sentiment and recognition to ask those passionate and devoted volunteers to be on the board, but it just makes sense! They ALREADY believe in the cause and your organization enough to donate so much of their time and commitment to you. This just seems like the perfect natural progression... that it fits in and flows so beautifully from one position to the other.

Great idea to recruit board members from volunteers who already show a passion for the mission. Why wouldn't an organization do this? It empowers community members who already volunteer to step up and become a leader.

This is a really great article. Based on my readings and understanding I am curious to know your thoughts on including young talented professionals (college students) to serve on a board. My thinking aligns with the idea that we will be faced with the challenge of not having talented individual who can fill leadership positions and one of the factors being the lack of experience. I understand that it is hard to find a young motivated individual in today's society who is committed enough to serve on a board. Do you think that we should take a new approach to attract and create a way to involve these individuals at that level?

I completely agree with Jessie Singer's approach to recruiting new baord members. Being the Presaident of an ASU Organization has taught me through expereince as a leader on how to exactly find suitable board members. I for one looked primarily at my volunteer base and had one on ones with memebers who I saw were committed to our cause and mission and who have gone above and beyond for the organization. I then determined what the interests were for the individual and asked the volunteer to then nominate his/her self for elections. Those considered during the vote were definitely focused on in terms of geographically where they live in case urgent business needs to be handled by the board. However, I am unsure about whether or not we would limit the board to someone who is local. Considering the fact that this volunteer is passionate and involved with the organization, to some the geographical distance would not be a barrier. However, I agree with Jessie that this may be a contributing factor.

To me, this process brings together the practical concept of "don't reinvent the wheel" with genuine interest and purpose. I like that you start your description with an almost anecdotal description of who you see as a true and passionate leader. That individual doesn't have to be a prominent donor or someone high up in the organization, but they're someone you notice for doing the right thing. And I think instinctively, we all sense that this quality is what we want protecting and guiding the mission of a nonprofit.

I love that you really highlight how ensuring that the person is the right fit for more than just the technical skills is what helps make them most successful in their role.

This is great method! Coming from a small community, this seemed to be one of the methods we used on a regular basis as we clearly recognized who was engaged, had clear knowledge of our mission, experience with our staff and members, and of course a needed skillset that would help move us forward in a previously identified area. Collectively, we then made a decision to modify our strategy (which was always fluid) to seek out board members from the community who could further enhance and effectively support our mission, which made for a fun and truly divers board.

Blog Archive