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Board Recruitment

The key to effective board recruitment is to ask, “What skills, expertise and personal traits should we look for in new board members?” The answers to this question should frame the search and provide the criteria needed to evaluate candidates. It is also helpful to have a clear written statement of board member expectations to share with candidates (sample board expectations).

Suggested recruitment process

  1. Begin with a board discussion of the above question
  2. Appoint two or three members of the board to conduct the recruitment process. Usually, this is called the Nominating or Board Development Committee.
  3. Using the criteria established by the board, and drawing on their personal and professional relationships, each board member submits to the committee the names of at least three individuals whom they recommend as candidates, having first contacted each to assess their interest and qualifications.
  4. Nominating Committee members contact each of the potential candidates by phone to conduct an initial assessment. Sample questions: Do they meet the criteria established by the board? Are they willing to devote their time, efforts and expertise to board matters? Do they have an interest in veterans’ issues, medical research or education? Do they have previous board experience? How can the board make their participation meaningful and productive? What kind of time commitment can they make?
  5. Nominating Committee members compare notes and narrow the candidates down to three.
  6. At least two members of the Nominating Committee meet in person with each candidate individually. This could be accomplished over lunch or dinner and should be used to educate the candidates about the NPC and the expectations of an NPC board member as well as verifying that they meet the criteria established at the beginning of the process.
  7. Nominating Committee compares notes and prioritizes the candidates.
  8. Nominating Committee arranges for two or three other board members to have lunch or dinner with the top candidate (at a minimum, a decision making majority of the board should have personal contact with the candidate). The purpose is to further familiarize the candidate with the NPC and the board with the candidate.
  9. Assuming this goes well and the candidate indicates his/her willingness to serve, the Nominating Committee presents him or her to the full board for a vote. After the board has approved membership, the chairman or another designated board member extends an official invitation to the candidate.
  10. If the candidate declines, repeat steps 8 and 9 as needed.

NAVREF strongly recommends against “ex officio” appointments; that is, persons appointed solely because of their VA or university position (i.e. Chief of Radiology). A candidate who meets the board criteria and happens to be Chief of Radiology is fine. However, the primary factors must be suitability for serving on the board.

Finding individuals to serve on nonprofit boards has never been easy, but has become increasingly difficult post-Enron and the United Way scandals. Individuals are becoming more aware that board service entails real responsibilities and that there are legal consequences for negligence. However, NPCs are fortunate that many people are committed to veterans issues and take an interest in medical research. Possible sources for board members:

  • References from current board members or other VAMC staff
  • Local chapters of veterans service organizations
  • http://www.BoardNetUSA.org - a national network of organizations working to connect nonprofit boards and potential candidates (not yet available in every city, but new ones are being added quickly)
  • State association of nonprofits – go to the National Council of Nonprofit Associations to locate your state’s association http://www.ncna.org/

Board Member Diversity

When considering board recruitment decisions, boards are also encouraged to establish diversity goals. Certainly, gender and race may be considered. But just as importantly, NPCs benefit enormously when the boards are made up of individuals with different skills, knowledge, backgrounds and experiences. Diversity brings a variety of insights to problem solving and ethics as well as being a means to acquire financial, legal and technical aptitude. A board may create a grid citing its diversity objectives and  indicating how existing members meet the objectives. Future recruitment might then focus on filling in the blanks.

Board Member Gender Attorney Accountant Fundraiser VA Employee Researcher
John M       X X
Karen F X        
David M       X X
Harry M       X X
Felix M       X X
Mike M       X  

 

Using the above grid as an example, the board may want to make an effort to recruit more woman as well as accounting and fund raising expertise. It also needs to identify a second community member who is not a VA-salaried employee.

Board Member Orientation

Board orientation is the process of educating board members about their roles, responsibilities, the organization, and how the board works. A thorough orientation gets a new board member engaged quickly and off to a running start. The executive director may conduct the orientation or it may be performed by a longstanding board member.  Either way, it may be beneficial to include a longstanding board member who is willing to be responsive to the new board member’s questions on an ongoing basis.

The executive director and/or designated board member should have personal contact with the new board member at least twice. First, to identify himself/herself as the person responsible for orienting the new board member and second, after the appointee has a chance to go over the orientation materials, to respond to questions. It is often a nice gesture for a designated board member to accompany the new one to the first board meeting.  The board member can make sure he/she meets all the other board members and staff, and should sit next to him/her to provide low key insights as needed during the meeting.

Recommended orientation handbook

  1. Letter of welcome
  2. Board of directors information
  • Logistical details of the next board meeting
  • Schedule of board meetings
  • Board of directors roster
  • Board of directors expectations and meeting practices
  • Conflict of interest policy and disclosure form
  1. Background on current issues before the board
  • Minutes for the last several board meetings
  • Agenda and supporting documentation for the most recent board meeting
  1. General Information about the organization
  • NPC Statutory Authority
  • VHA Handbook 1200.17 or 1400.2
  • Articles of incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • Mission statement
  • Summary of programs
  • Most recent annual report to VA
  • Summary of insurance coverage
  • Last completed audit
  • Last completed IRS Form 990
  • Approved operational budget for the current year

Board Self-Evaluation

Periodically the board should go through a self-assessment process as a whole and as individual members. This process gives the board an opportunity to remind the members of their duties and responsibilities, identify the strengths and weaknesses of board operations, review and measure the organization’s progress toward its goals and mission, and open channels of communication. The evaluation process can take the form of a self-evaluation questionnaire or can be as extensive as a board retreat.

 

Helpful Documents

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