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Board Member Recruitment

Recruiting board members is essential for co-ops. It is important to make sure that you not only have a strong group of members leading the co-op, but are thinking about who will join the board when others step down. Having a pool of strong potential candidates will help the co-op make sure it will have the right skills and continue to make good decisions.

So how do you make sure that your board is strong now and the in future? This page should help.

How do boards recruit good people?

Getting the right people on a board can be difficult. One person should never be in charge of finding board recruits — this is a team effort. To do this, boards should create a nominating committee that searches for potential directors with the skills the board needs. It’s important that this committee meets throughout the year to ensure it is updated on board requirements and prospective candidates.

As for how to find these new directors, that’s really up to you. You can advertise that you’re looking for board members in local newspapers or on social media, ask people who you think would be a good fit (or ask friends to recommend people), connect with local organizations that might have suggestions, or brainstorm other options. The best methods really depend on your goals and what best suits your community.

How do you know who to recruit?

Co-operatives elect members to sit on their boards, unlike other types of businesses that often appoint their directors. This creates ‘lay-boards’ — meaning they are made up of individuals that often don’t have a background in running a business.

Some co-ops have a screening process that sets out criteria for potential board members, to make sure they have the skills and knowledge to manage the organization well. Co-ops should aim to find members who are interested in serving as directors who also fill a need for certain skills and experience that the board needs. Not everyone needs to have the same level of experience, skills, and knowledge — finding a good mix is the idea.

This checklist gives an example of how you can determine whether you have a good mix of skills and knowledge on your board (you can change or add to these depending on the needs of your co-op). If some of these areas are missing, it’s a good idea to look for people who can fill these gaps when you’re recruiting new members to run for election. Some of these can be learned on the job; others might require more extensive education or experience.

When your nomination committee is looking for potential members, it should fill out a checklist like the one above, and then ask:

What are the top three skills needed on our board?

This process can help your board get the right people.

Boards aren’t just about having the right skills, however. Diversity of skills and knowledge is important, but other kinds of diversity can also help strengthen your board and make sure it represents the membership of your co-op. For more about board diversity, check out this article, or listen to the Co-operatives First team talk about it on this podcast episode.

How do you know if you should run for a board position?

Many co-op members may never think of themselves as good material for the board of directors. That may not be true! Co-op members should think about how they could use their own skills and knowledge to contribute to the business — they just may be a good fit to serve on the board.

At the end of the day, what’s required is that directors be elected by the members and need to be willing to put in the time and effort needed to be a good board member.

There are things to consider that you might not be told when you join a board. Here are some questions members can ask themselves that will help them make the decision to run:

  • What skills can I bring to the board table?
  • How much time can I commit to working with the co-op each week? Each month?
  • Why do I want to join the board?
  • Will joining this board contribute to my professional development?
  • Do I agree with the mission and objectives of the co-operative?
  • Am I willing to serve on a working board? A policy board?
  • Do I have sufficient understanding of financial reporting and policy?
  • Do I have sufficient understanding of the industry the co-operative operates in?
  • Am I willing to work through conflict on the board? With members? With staff?
  • Should I be compensated for my time as a director?
  • Am I willing to learn new skills that will help me be a better director?
  • Am I willing to set aside my personal goals to benefit the co-op?

How do you convince people to join a board?

The bottom line is that it may be difficult to recruit people to run for a seat on the board. Members may feel like they just don’t have time to commit. Boards can think about offering incentives to those thinking about running for a board position by offering to compensate directors, minimizing the time requirements by transferring some tasks to staff, or engaging in training that helps develop directors’ personal skills.

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