Recruiting board members – getting the meeting

Asking someone to join a board is an important request and should be done in person. This is not a time to make the ask in an e-mail message or a phone call. Even if the person you meet with eventually says “no” to your request, you want the opportunity to engage in a meaningful conversation about the organization and where it is heading, impress him or her with your packet of recruitment materials and information, and, perhaps, introduce your executive director.

While face-to-face meetings are a “must” for recruitment, sometimes getting the appointment to have the conversation can be the most challenging part of the process. Here are some tips that may help increase your odds of getting a face-to-face recruitment meeting:

  1. Make the connection to the organization. You are about to ask the candidate to consider making a major commitment. Help him or her see why this might be a reasonable request: “We have greatly appreciated the interest you have shown,” or “Mary Jones has indicated that you might be open to considering getting involved with our organization.”
  2. Give the candidate three reasons for why you want to meet in person. Rather than say, “We want to meet because we want to ask you to join our board,” give yourself a bit of wiggle room in case you meet the candidate and don’t feel like the timing (or the candidate) is right. Try this instead: “I want to meet to talk with you about what our organization is doing now, get your opinion on a community effort we are about to launch, and see if you might consider joining us as a leadership volunteer.” You’ll be surprised at how well this works.
  3. Move quickly to setting the date and time. Make the purpose of the call about getting the appointment. Try to move as quickly as you can to setting a date and time: “Would it be possible to set a date and time to meet next week? Would you have any time next Tuesday?” You will have moved from talking about the “why” of the meeting to the “when” of the meeting, and you are now in a discussion about calendars rather than about board membership.
  4. Don’t give up on the importance of the face-to-face meeting. If you get any resistance to setting the meeting, try something like this: “I really would like the opportunity to sit down and talk to you about our organization. I’m excited about the work we are doing and the direction we are heading, and I feel like it would be a disservice to you and to the organization if we tried to do this in a phone conversation.”
  5. If you can’t get the appointment, leave the door open for the future. This might be as simple as, “I hope we’ll get a chance sometime in the coming year to talk about the organization,” or “I really want to encourage you to come to our annual meeting this year.”

There are many ways in which the appointment conversation can be scripted, but the goal is always to get a face-to-face meeting with the candidate. Remember, even if the candidate ultimately says “no” to your request to join the board, if you get the chance to have a 30-45 minute conversation with someone about your organization, you’ve had a success. Don’t have this conversation on the phone.

For more tips on board recruitment, visit our website,, and take a look at the “Blog” section. Or, if you would like to talk with a member of our team, you can use the contact form to initiate the conversation.