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How to recruit new board members

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Whether you have people queuing up to join your Management Committee or are struggling to find new members, it’s worth having a look at how you recruit.

There is no exact recipe for recruiting the right people onto your Management Committee.  Every group/organisation is different with different structures and different ways of doing things.  However, the following are different approaches and ideas that have worked for other organisations.

Why join a Management Committee?

“The main reason for becoming a committee member is the individual’s commitment to the cause of the organisation.”  (Giving Leadership, Giving Time, Volunteer Now 2015)

Most people who volunteer on Management Committees join because of their commitment to the ‘cause’ or the aims of the organisation, rather than the excitement of the role!  Committee Members gain great satisfaction from the fact that their organisation stands for a worthwhile cause and that they are able to make a difference by making sure it meets the needs of its members or the community.  They also enjoy seeing the organisation they manage develop.

It is worth looking at how you communicate why your organisation exists and what role the Management Committee plays in the organisation, e.g. the important strategic role, deciding its future direction, etc.

Bright ideas for committee recruitment

  1. Word of Mouth
    The most common way to recruit Management Committee members is word of mouth and personal recommendation.Want to know more about what committee members think
    Giving Leadership, Giving Time (Volunteer Now, 2015) is  the only comprehensive research carried out into voluntary management committees in Northern Ireland.  The main benefit of this method is that the person and their work or skills are already known to the Committee.  The downside is that individuals approached may take up the role because they feel obliged or flattered rather than having a commitment to carrying out the associated responsibilities.  This approach can also lead to friends and family becoming Committee members, which is often not appropriate, or it may produce a Committee with skills gaps, if this is not part of your selection criteria.  Therefore, other recruitment methods can be more effective in widening your search and ensuring that a diverse range of committed people with a variety of skills/expertise are recruited.
  2. Current Organisational Membership
    As many organisations have a governing document that stipulates that the Management Committee must be elected from its membership, why not put more effort into building your membership.  Do your members have a variety of skills and expertise and come from a diverse range of backgrounds?  Do your members reflect your user groups?  Are your members representative of the geographic area in which you operate?  Do you need to do a membership recruitment drive?  Increase your membership and the potential for Management Committee members increases!
  3. Local Networks
    Need finance skills?
    A common skills gap on Management Committee’s is financial management knowledge and experience.  Large organisations target professional accountants and have audit committees attended by the Finance Director who is often a professional accountant.  Small organisations may alternatively approach individuals in larger voluntary organisations who have direct experience of developing high quality financial management systems.  Develop or utilise your existing contacts with other voluntary organisations, businesses, trade associations, network organisations, the local council, etc to attract a diverse range of potential Management Committee members.  This can be a useful way to recruit people with expertise in a particular subject area such as marketing, goverance or business management skills.
  4. Special Events
    There are a range of other ways to attract people to your Management Committee, for example, through activities and special events during the year and several months prior to your election/selection process, such as:
    –  Evening reception
    –  Anniversary event
    –  Celebrity or special speakers
  5. Open meetings
    Some Management Committees organise one or more open meetings where others can attend to get an insight into the culture of the Committee and how it operates.  This may be organised several months before the AGM where elections will take place, with the aim of recruiting new people onto the Committee.  This type of event can help reduce anxieties, particularly where individuals have no Management Committee experience.
  6. Raise Your Profile
    If you regularly have difficulties recruiting members to your Management Committee it may be beneficial to focus some of your time and energy into raising the overall profile of your organisation, (i.e. what you do, the impact you’re trying to make and why people should be involved).  You might use local radio, community news in local papers, participating in Volunteers Week, or recruit a celebrity patron to speak on behalf of your group/organisation.  Over time, this will benefit the organisation and increase interest in your Management Committee!
  7. Talks
    Short, upbeat talks at community or professional organisations’ meetings can be used to specifically recruit new members to your organisation who may later be elected to the Management Committee.  Or use the opportunity to co-opt interested individuals with specific skills in areas such as accounting, marketing or community relations.
  8. Organisations That Can Help
    You can register your organisation’s volunteering opportunities free of charge here www.volunteernow.co.uk  The opportunities page enables your organisations to manage and advertise its own volunteer roles.  Potential volunteers are able to search for a role by activity and location then register for an opportunity directly online.  Business in the Community provides a service which matches business people with vacancies on voluntary management committees.  Arts and Business provides a service which matches business professional with the boards of Arts Groups.
  9. Advertise Publicly
    Public advertisements can be a good way to reach a wide audience.  Some public adverts are free, whilst others can be fairly expensive such as an advert in a regional newspaper.  There are a range of sources to reach sections of the public, including:
    –  community newsletters,
    –  websites advertising volunteer roles, such as www.volunteernow.co.uk
    –  local newspapers,
    –  professional journals,
    –  community centres or libraries.  This method is more popular when individuals with specific skills are being targeted, e.g. human resource skills or where a larger pool of potential applicants is desirable. Where you advertise has a bearing on who responds.