Using a skills Matrix

March 9, 2018

Some organizations take a fisherman’s approach to find board members — they throw out a net and hopefully, they will land a bunch of big fish (with only a couple of rusty license plates). A skills matrix is more thoughtful.

This is a very ineffective way to populate what is arguably one of the organization’s biggest assets. Just because someone wants to serve on the Board does not necessarily mean that they are the most appropriate person (at that time) to actually serve. In order to bake the cake of a board, you need to have all of the proper ingredients. If you remove one or two ingredients, it will not taste as it was designed to.

So, what skills are needed? I have come up with a pretty comprehensive list. They include:

* Board & Governance

*Community Engagement


*Donor Engagement



*Government Relations

*Human Resources

*Industry Knowledge/expert

*Information Technology


*Marketing & Communication

*Risk Management

*Strategic Planning

Then, you need to cross-reference these skills with the demographic makeup of the board. Genders and age all need to be represented, as well as some pretty industry-specific items, like:

*Top Donors

*Longstanding donors

*Legacy donors

So, now that you have all of those great people in the hopper, how do you make selections (or even how do you start recruiting)? I believe that before you start, you also need an emotional skills matrix. Not everybody is born (or even wants) to be a leader, but different personality types are needed to get the work done. As you recruit for members to serve on the board, ask yourself “could I see this person one day assuming the chair position?” These emotional skills may include:

*Consensus builder




So now that you have your matrix, it is really important that the matrix is maintained. As board members depart, try to keep that matrix optimal (but first, re-examine your matrix — is it still relevant?). Try to use that crystal ball to see what will be happening for the organization two to three years down the road. Are those the same skill sets that you will need?