Finding and recruiting new board members
Finding and recruiting new board members to meet the organisation's changing needs in relation to skils, experience and diversity is an important role played by existing board members.
Keeping a management committee fresh, focused and effective has to involve regular renewal of its membership. This enables the committee to periodically review what skills or attributes the committee requires to meet the changing challenges and demands of the organisation. It can also help to strengthen the commitment and enthusiasm of individual committee members, by introducing mechanisms for limiting their term of office.
Recruiting new members onto a Management Committee is not as straightforward as recruiting for other voluntary roles:
- Special guidelines and procedures need to be followed to ensure Committee Members are legally appointed in line with the organisation's governing document;
- A number of groups find it challenging to attract people with the skills or attributes they need;
- Some potential volunteers are reluctant to take on the responsibilities; and
- New members may struggle to get up to speed with the breadth of their responsibilities.
However, at the same time, recruiting new members provides a great opportunity to strengthen and diversify your Management Committee, increasing its overall effectiveness and ability to achieve its goals.
Given the key role that the Management Committee plays in the success of the organisation, it is worth spending a little time planning your recruitment and reviewing how you attract, select and involve new members.
Healthy Turnover Of Members
It is challenging for management committees to maintain a balance between ensuring continuity and being a ‘closed shop'. However, succession planning enables committees to anticipate and manage turnover when members resign or reach the end of their term of office. Such healthy turnover helps to ensure openness and accountability but is underpinned by effective planning to secure sufficient continuity.
There is a wide variation in the size of management committees and in the election process. Often small community groups often think they should have 12 or more Management Committee members while some large organisations have far fewer people on the Management Committee. Similarly some organisations think they have to re-elect the entire committee each year, while others have the same people on the Management Committee for years with little opportunity for others to get elected. In order to ensure fair and consistent practice that is in line with your governing document, it is important to consider what procedures you will use in recruitment and selection for Management Committee membership.
Small groups may adopt a fairly informal approach in the early stages of application and selection, but they will still need to consider the same issues:
- How will individuals apply for Committee membership?
- Who will determine who is eligible to be put forward for Committee membership?
- What criteria will they use to determine who is eligible?
- What are your formal procedures for appointment to the Management Committee?
Your answers to all of these questions should be based on:
- Requirements outlined in your governing document
- Procedures or criteria agreed by your Management Committee
How will individuals apply for Committee membership?
Your application process will be influenced by the size of your organisation, its geographical spread, your recruitment methods, and who you need on your committee.
Options frequently used include:
1. Informal indication of interest
Often adopted by small groups operating in local areas where potential new members are drawn from a very restricted pool of people. Individuals may speak informally to existing committee or staff members
Flexible and may therefore generate more applicants.
- May present limited opportunity to review relevant skills and experience or check whether they meet essential criteria for the role;
- Relies a lot on the organisation's familiarity with the applicants and therefore disadvantages those who may be new to area and may bring new skills or experiences;
- Also difficult to be completely fair and consistent if choosing between applicants; and
- It doesn't allow for the recruitment of people from other communities or areas who may have transferable knowledge and experience.
2. Nomination by current committee members
This process may be specified in your governing document or selected for convenience. Committee members are asked to put forward names of individuals who they would like considered for membership, having confirmed their interest in committee membership. Confirmation of membership may be by ‘seconding' a nomination, a vote by the Committee or voting by the membership.
Click here for an example nomination form
- Ensures that new Committee members, their skills and expertise are already known to some of the group.
- Most appropriate where selection is from a narrow pool of potential members.
- May present limited opportunity to review relevant skills and experience objectively or check whether they meet essential criteria for the role.
- Relies a lot on the organisation's familiarity with the applicants and therefore disadvantages those who may be new to area and may bring new skills or experiences.
- Also difficult to be completely fair and consistent if choosing between applicants.
- May give rise to conflict of interest situations within the Committee.
3. Submission of CV
Usual process in larger organisations or where an organisation wishes to attract individuals from a wider geographical area or individuals with particular experience or expertise who may not already be known to the organisation.
- Allows candidates known or new to the organisation to be considered.
- Gives an overview of skills and experience.
- Some applicants and some organisations may find the formality offputting.
- CVs can be of varying detail and quality and may not present candidates in equal light.
- May disadvantage those for whom English is not their first language or those with a disability.
4. Application form
Preferred by some large organisations or where an organisation wishes to formally request permission to check criminal records due to financial responsibilities involved or access to children or vulnerable adults through role.
- Ensures that all candidates are asked to present same categories of information and therefore increases fairness and consistency.
- Questions can be tailored to requirements of the role ensuring selection is on basis of relevant information only.
- Formal requests for checking criminal records or declarations on other issues which could preclude their membership can be incorporated.
- Applicants can be measured against criteria. Encourages applicants to consider in advance the demands of the role and whether they have the appropriate skills and qualities.
- Approach is very formal and time-consuming for the applicant and may reduce the number of applications.
Who will determine who is eligible to be put forward for committee membership?
It is advisable, where possible, to involve more than one person in determining eligibility. Depending on your organisation, this may be carried out by:
- Chair/Secretary of the Management Committee
- Delegated committee members
- Most senior staff member alongside committee members
As with any other recruitment situation, applications should be treated confidentially.
What criteria will they use to determine who is eligible?
Each organisation needs to be clear who is and is not eligible to be considered for Management Committee membership (e.g. your governing document may specify that previous committee members cannot be reappointed within 3 years or there may be age restrictions).
Your criteria should be based on any requirements and then any additional requirements set down by the Management Committee.
Consider the following points:
- Does your governing document require Management Committee members to be members of the organisation?
Individuals under the age of 18 cannot usually be on the Management Committee of a Charity which is an unincorporated association. However, over 16s may be permitted to be on the Management Committee of a limited company which is a charity. The test is whether the individual understands their duties and responsibilities and there are caveats around insurance and parental permission regarding liability. Groups are advised to take specific advice on this matter. For further details see the Charity Commission for NI website.
- Does your governing document specify any organisations or constituencies that must be represented?
- What categories of people are legally disqualified from becoming a trustee?
- Do you require any specific expertise, personal qualities or experience to be a Committee member?
- How diverse is your committee, does it represent the community it serves?
- Does your governing document specify any restrictions relating to applications by current or past Committee members?
- How will you identify and assess conflicts of interest? Will applicants be asked to complete declaration forms?
What are your formal procedures for appointment to the Management Committee?
Most Management Committee members become involved in a group/organisation through an election process, usually at the Annual General Meeting (AGM). But there are other ways that individuals may join. If you are unsure check your governing document for the rules for how new members join.
The following table outlines various ways individuals may become involved on a Management Committee.
|Election||Individuals are nominated (usually following their application) and are then elected onto the Management Committee, often by the organisation's members at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) and/or by postal ballot.|
|Co-option||Individuals are appointed onto the Management Committee, by the Management Committee. (Click here for a co-option form template)|
|Appointed from outside||Individuals are appointed by an external organisation, e.g. a local authority. Please see Charity Commission NI guidance for Councillors who are Trustees.|
|Ex-Officio||Individuals are appointed by virtue of the office they hold, e.g. a mayor or vicar.|
For more details on planning and recruiting new board members click here.
Help and support
For a list of organisations who can provide help and support regarding recruitment of management committee members, view our training and support section.