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Recruit, Retain, Results: How to Build a High Performing Board. Deborah Peeples Vice President, Philanthropy The Humane Society of the United States. #. Not-for-Profit Boards are a Quintessential American Invention. __________________________________

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recruit retain results how to build a high performing board

Recruit, Retain, Results: How to Build a High Performing Board

Deborah Peeples

Vice President, Philanthropy

The Humane Society of the United States


not for profit boards are a quintessential american invention
Not-for-Profit Boards are a Quintessential American Invention


In the 1600’s Massachusetts Bay Corporation chose 13 men to provide governance to the new colony, chosen for their “wisdom, expertise & honesty”.

In 1636 Harvard was established with a board of 12 overseers.

in 2011 375 years later
In 2011, 375 Years Later…

There are 1,574,674 tax-exempt organizations, including:

    • 959,698 public charities
    • 100,337 private foundations
    • 514,639 other types of nonprofit organizations,

including chambers of commerce, fraternal

organizations and civic leagues

  • If each nonprofit organization has an average of 8 – 10 Board members…
a startling number
A Startling Number…

It’s probably safe to project that in the U. S. today there are between 13 million – 20 million Americans serving in a nonprofit board leadership capacity.

the shape of boards today
The Shape of Boards Today

Non profit governance today was profoundly shaped in 1964 when the American Bar Association ratified the Model Nonstock Corporation Statue to bring the statutory treatment of NPO’s into line with the main body of corporate law…thus permitting the establishment of nonprofit organizations for any legal purpose, rather than restricting them to only charitable, educational or religious uses.

who a re today s board members
Who Are Today’s Board Members?

Many are men and women with no previous board experience; who receive uneven orientations and training to prepare them for this position.

today s board
Today’s Board…

As the third sector has trended toward increasingly professionalized organizational management, surprisingly, the capabilities and qualifications of the average board member may not have evolved at the same pace.

resources to professionalize boards
Resources to Professionalize Boards
  • Board Source
  • Standards of Excellence Program
  • Guide Star Requirements
  • Business Volunteer Unlimited

Many national organizations have developed sophisticated Board training programs….yet…

a good board is a victory
A Good Board Is A Victory!
  • Recruiting the “right” people is the critical first step in building a high-performing Board.
  • Some organizations are more thoughtful and strategic hiring staff than recruiting Board members(!).
  • Nearly every major study of issues confronting NPO’s over the last decade has identified recruitment of qualified and effective members as a significant challenge.
where to begin
Where To Begin?...

Know thyself!

  • What is your mission -- what are you in the “business” of doing?
  • What is your organizational vision – where do you want to be as an organization – what growth is planned/ hoped for beyond where you are today?
  • What are your CEO/Exec Director/President’s strengths?
  • What is your organizational SWOT profile?
a few more questions
A Few More Questions…

What is your organizational culture?

  • Open, dynamic & opportunistic?
  • Hierarchical & formalized?
  • Stable or struggling?
  • Highly professionalized staff or highly engaged volunteers and constituents?
crucial conversations
Crucial Conversations

Complete your organizational assessment

  • Use your SWOT to develop a matrix of desired skills, leadership qualities, constituency representations, demographics, etc.

Define your organization’s success metrics

  • How would your organization define Board success? What constitutes a “good” Board member?
the perfect board member
The Perfect Board Member!!

Let’s take a moment to brainstorm…

  • Define perfect…
  • What makes them perfect? …
  • What is a nightmare Board


  • What enables poor performance?
5 best practices for building your board
5 Best Practices For Building Your Board

Create an inventory matrix of desired skills that fits your organization.

  • Boards have multiple roles from supervision of CEO/President/ED to overall legal governance, to fiduciary responsibility, to fund raising and program delivery oversight; to public accountability & constituency representation; to serving as the guardians of the dream and prophets of the future….
  • What are the composite of skills, strengths, abilities, traits and characteristics your organization needs?
best practice 1 establishing your qualifications
Best Practice #1:Establishing Your Qualifications
  • Agree upon & establish desired Board member qualifications that are specific to your organization.
  • Commit to only recruiting the “truly committed”.
  • Choose people who understand your mission and the value they can bring beyond the checkbook.
  • Seek diverse personalities.
  • Members with financial acumen are mandatory!
best practice 2 create a careful screening process
Best Practice #2: Create a Careful Screening Process

How thoroughly are your Board prospects cultivated and screened? Who is involved?

  • Research
  • References
  • Cultivation Meetings
  • Interviews
ISO …..

“Seeking wealthy, influential, committed and passionate individual to serve as volunteer board member for 6-year stint. Must love (insert mission); be available to meet 4, 6, 8, 12 (chose one) times per year and serve on 1, 2, 3 (chose one) committees; capable of donating a minimum 6 -figure gift and willing to lean-on friends and colleagues for financial support. ‘’

finding prospects for your board
Finding Prospects For Your Board

...Or what to do if Bill Gates, George Clooney or Oprah are not available…

Or OK! Where Are You?...

Where Do Board Members Come From…

5 most common challenges to board recruitment
5 Most Common Challenges to Board Recruitment
  • Unable to attract the wealthy or


  • Unable to attract the required

skills sets;

  • Unable to recruit for diversity;
  • Finding individuals who understand the concept of governance;
  • Enlisting individuals who will “engage”…
create a board farm team
Create a Board “Farm” Team

Work to develop your Farm Team of Board members…

At the HSUS, the National Council…and our many other “interest” Councils (State Councils, Equine Councils, Farm Animal Protection Councils, event committees), provide us with an opportunity to test “compatibility”, work style, cultural fit, dependability, character, etc…

what can you train for and what training do you need
What Can You Train For and What Training Do You Need?

Questions: What’s more important…

  • Passion for mission or specific skill or expertise?
  • Prior NPO Board experience or deep pockets?
  • Recognizable name or commitment to be present and work?
  • Loyalty or critical thinking?
best practice 3 job descriptions role definitions
Best Practice #3: Job Descriptions, Role Definitions
  • Create written job descriptions.
  • Define term limits.
  • Delineate responsibilities: attendance, financial commitments (annual gift/philanthropic support), code of conduct, committee participation.
best practice 4 formalize the nomination process
Best Practice #4: Formalize the Nomination Process
  • Assess the strengths & effectiveness of the Board’s Nominating Committee.
  • Is the committee active year round? Which Board members comprise the committee? How often do they meet and what methods do they use?
  • Fight to be at the table and inform the process.
the nomination committee
The Nomination Committee

Map out a year-round cultivation program for the Board’s Nomination’s Committee…

  • Keep your focus on the best, the brightest and the hardest to attain.
  • Schedule regular meetings (quarterly).
  • Review Board prospects and research regularly.
  • Focus on matrix and what skills are needed.
  • Monitor cultivation of prospects.
best practice 5 comprehensive orientation
Best Practice #5: Comprehensive Orientation

Institutionalize a full day, onsite orientation...briefing meetings with…

  • CEO
  • CFO
  • Development
  • Program Staff
  • Site Visits to program locations
orientating the board foundation for success
Orientating the Board: Foundation for Success
  • Understanding the Balance Sheet/ Budget basics
  • Familiarity with the 990’s and Charity Ratings
  • Strategic plan/organizational metrics
  • Board Committee work/ Staff relations
  • Elevator Speech - mission; program goals; high level service statistics
  • Organizational calendar and opportunities to engage
retention and training
Retention and Training

Now the work begins!

  • Develop a strategy for each Board member

as you would for your major donors.

  • Define the role of the Board Development /Nominations committee in this process.
  • Conduct annual surveys and have conversations about Board satisfaction.
  • Utilize the Board Effectiveness/Satisfaction Surveys that are available through Board Source and others.
creating team board
Creating “Team” Board!

How much attention do you pay to

building “team” among the Board?

  • Do the meetings promote discussion and interaction?
  • What opportunities exist to socialize?
  • How do you facilitate relationship-building?
  • How is “bad Board behavior” dealt with?
  • What is the style/schedule for ongoing Board communications?
deepening board engagement
Deepening Board Engagement
  • “Appropriate” involvement in program
  • Board retreats
  • Committee work
  • Special projects
  • Development Ambassadors
  • Speaking and representing the organization
handouts resources
Handouts/ Resources:

Sample Board Commitment Forms

who owns board performance
Who Owns Board Performance?
  • The Executive Director?
  • The IRS and State Charity Officials?
  • The Board Itself?
  • Key stakeholders, donors, clients,


  • What is the role of the top Development Professional?
thank you
Thank you!


thank you1
Thank you!!
  • Deborah

Don’t forget to visit the

Solutions Showcase!

Many of the ideas discussed today are on display at the Solutions Showcase!