Without a charge the nominating process can drift

Imagine being put in charge of a committee where the only guidance you are given is, “Your committee is responsible for recruiting new board members.” You would be certain to have plenty of questions, including, “Is that all?”

I think every committee should have a specific “charge” that tells them what you hope they’ll achieve, what kinds of tasks you expect along the way, who should be involved, when they should complete the tasks, and to whom and how they report on progress. Standing committees can often find a description of their duties in the bylaws, but it is not unusual for these to be incomplete and referred to rarely.

As you recruit someone to chair your nominating process, take the time first to develop a charge that describes what you hope he or she (and the committee) will do and accomplish. Not only will this allow you to place the emphasis where you think it is most important, but you’ll find it much more likely that you’ll get a “yes” as you recruit the chair. People want to be successful in their volunteer work. Tell them what it will take to be successful.

So, what should go into the charge? Consider the following:

• A statement of purpose – What does this committee exist to do?

• Key responsibilities – Do you want them to only recruit new members, or do they have a role with those current board members whose terms are ending? Are they expected to play a role in welcoming and orienting new board members?

• Expectations – What are the expectations that you want to make clear? Do you want them to seek nominations from the full board? Do you want them to demonstrate that the skills for which they are recruiting align with the strategic plan? Are there diversity expectations that should be articulated?

• Committee composition – How many people should serve on the committee? Should they be board members? Will the chair of the committee recruit them or will the board chair assign them?

• Timeline – Would you like the committee to begin its work by a certain date? Do you have an annual meeting or some other date before which recruitment needs to be completed? Are there milestones along the way or points at which you want to offer the board a chance to weigh-in?

• Support provided – Who will be providing staff support for the committee? This is typically the chief executive. What role, if any, will you play? Are you ready and willing to meet with candidates?

• Reporting – To whom does this committee report? Do you expect them to report at each board meeting?

While the specific recruitment needs will change from year to year (needing 3 new board members one year and 2 the next, for example), if you take some time to develop a charge that responds to these questions, it is likely that you’ll have a document to which the committee chair can return year after year for guidance.

With the charge in hand, you should be able to have a very focused and specific discussion with your prospective committee chair. In addition to walking through the charge with him or her, be ready to answer the specifics about how many vacancies exist now, who will be leaving the board, how many people will need to be recruited, and so on.

If you are serious about board recruitment, and see it as the path to changing board culture, develop a clear charge to guide the process.

For additional information, please contact Jeff Wahlstrom at (207) 992-4407 or send him an e-mail message at [email protected]..