Recruiting from the outside in

21 Feb

A colleague just shared a cool opportunity called The Board Match ( Here’s the deal:

The Board Match offers a unique opportunity for Bay Area residents to become stronger leaders by serving on the boards of directors of local nonprofit organizations. In particular, it offers young and mid-career professionals opportunities to become organizational and community leaders, with benefits for their own professional growth, as well as an entrée into philanthropy and civic stewardship that inspires others and can become a pattern for life. It offers seasoned professionals approaching retirement a vital next step in a lifelong career” (The Volunteer Center).

As my colleague put it, “You basically go and its a ‘Want to join our board?’ fair with reps from over 100 Bay Area nonprofits looking for potential board members.”

Go, Volunteer Center! Thanks for creating a vital conduit in recruitment: a community-accessible, intensive and inclusive opportunity for people outside organizations’ networks to find them.

All too often, recruitment is more by default, left to existing members to invite in those they know within the communities they themselves belong to. This approach seems inclusive from the inside because people are asking great questions and brainstorming lots of candidates, but is it inclusive if we only pick among the people already in the room (with the door that may not be locked, but looks shut to the casual passerby)?

And the reason inclusion matters is organizational well-being. It comes down to this: the broader you cast your net, the better your odds of hauling in the talent, insight, skills and understandings that, in synergistic dialogue, will help your organization to thrive.

When organizations claim, “We don’t recruit,” I tell them (politely): yes, you do. Relying on alumni networks or the usual suspects of people who already tend to come to you (because of feeder channels already in place, like schools or sister organizations) is recruiting. It’s choosing to invest in the status quo work for you.

And while that may seem to work, try to take the long view of your organization’s health. Stuff–like recessions and the dawn of new centuries–happens, and does your organization have the resiliency and the versatility to adapt? Does it have the diversity of identity (in addition to experience) that correlates directly with integrative complex thinking and more robust discernment?

So whether you attend The Board Match or not, I invite you to consider: How does your organization recruit? How is that working for the mission and community? Whom are you missing and excluding–both actively and passively? (All organizations have their bona fide exclusions. The opportunity lies in tossing the ones that don’t serve organizational mission, vision and health.) And how can you broaden access for the people you may not even know yet that you want in your organization?

**Thanks to PN for the link.

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