Does your board of directors have the expertise needed to oversee your organization? Are all your board positions full? Are you planning for the day when members rotate off your board? You should always be on the lookout for good board members. Because the staff, especially the Executive Director, are often out in the community, they might run into potential board members. At the same time, they should not be in charge of the board membership.
We suggest that you utilize a board member application process. Your application can ask about the prospective board member’s disability, since you must maintain at least 51% members who have a significant disability. Then a nominating committee can review the applications, interview the candidates, and invite candidates to observe a meeting and meet the full board before a vote is taken. What are some characteristics you look for in your board?
- Consumer control is first. Make sure that more than 50% (51% or more) of your board members state that they have a significant disability.
- Look around at your service area and compare the community makeup with the board makeup. Is your board representative of ethnic diversity, at least to the same degree as your community? What about other aspects of diversity?
- Are your board members representative of gender, age, or other aspects of community? While board members typically need to be of legal age, you can still have younger and older members in the mix.
- What kinds of expertise is useful on the board? Legal? Financial? Business? Contacts? Determine what is missing from your board makeup and seek out members to fill the gaps.
- Check your bylaws. You may have other requirements, such as requiring the person to live or work in your service area. This is not required by your grantor. If you feel someone outside the area will benefit the organization, you can suggest them to your board as long as it is allowed by your bylaws and policies.
- Typically the executive director is not a member of the board, although again, your bylaws would determine that. Some boards have found it useful to include current or past members of their board or the board or director of another center.
One last thought. If you don’t have term limits for board members, consider it. While board recruitment is a lot of work, there are many advantages to members rotating off after a period of time so that you can expand those who know you in the community and can tap the expertise of new folks in the process.