Board Recruiting Best Practices – Where and When should your board meet?
Where and when your board meets might be more important than what your nonprofit actually does…at least to some potential board members. Surprising news for some nonprofits, but with nearly 2 million board seats opening up in the country every year, board candidates have a lot of options when deciding to join a nonprofit board. For most board candidates, there is no shortage of potentially appealing board on which to serve. So how do board candidates choose a board? Believe it or not: if often comes down to where the board meets and at what time of day.
Location, location, location
- Try to pick the same location for most of your board meetings. Many nonprofits think it’s more “fair” to have the board meetings rotate locations. It’s unfair to have the same board member host every time, if the meetings are not held at the actual nonprofit. Or it’s more fair to change locations so members who work downtown don’t always have to travel uptown, or vice versa. For most board candidates, they want the certainty of knowing that board meets will always be held uptown, downtown, or at whatever location the board has chosen. Candidates usually prefer a board that consistently meets close to their home or office…not one that travels to various locations over the course of the year.
- If your nonprofit is located somewhere that is not particularly close to where your trustees live or work, try to hold board meetings, when possible, at a trustee’s office that is convenient for everyone. This may be less convenient for staff of the nonprofit, but it makes your nonprofit much more attractive to potential board members.
- Use teleconferencing for your board meetings sparingly. Lots of boards that are sited in locations that are not convenient to where their board members live and work will offer teleconference board meetings as an option to their trustees. In our experience, most board candidates do not like boards that meet by phone rather than in person. Board members want to feel they are an important part of your nonprofit’s team. When nonprofits meet mainly by phone, many board candidates fear they won’t feel as engaged…and will simply pick another board that does meet in person.
Tic Toc…timing matters
- As with your board meeting location, try to pick the same time of day for your board to consistently meet at. Board members who are traders on Wall Street, for example, need to be at work early in the morning, so can’t easily join a board that alternates between mornings and evenings, to be “fair” to everyone. Most lawyers prefer boards that meet in the morning as their days tend to run late. Pick a time that works for most of your board and hold all meetings consistently at that time.
- Try to avoid having your board meet in the early afternoon. In days gone by, boards were often made up of trustees sipping sherry on Park Avenue. For those board members, meeting at three in the afternoon over tea was lovely. Those days are gone. If your board wants to attract board members who have busy schedules, keep in mind that afternoon meetings make your board very uncompetitive vis-a-vis other nonprofits. Lunch meetings as well.
- The most attractive time for your board to meet is at 8 am. By far, board candidates prefer early morning meetings that allow them to give their time generously, to a cause they care about, and then get on with their day. If your board can’t meet in the morning for some reason, the second most attractive time for boards to meet is at 6 or later in the evening. This is not as ideal as a morning meeting, but certainly better than at lunch or in the afternoon, for most board candidates.
- Have your board meet at least 4 times a year. Nonprofits sometimes think that holding less frequent board meetings will make them more attractive to potential trustees. Our experience has been just the opposite. The number one criteria most board candidates specify for us, as we are identifying potential board matches for them, is to find them a board where they can truly engage and generously give their valuable intellectual capital. Boards that meet less than 4 times a year send a message (whether intentionally or not) that their team does not truly value the time and energy their board members want to give. Candidates will focus elsewhere.