UPDATE: Go Find A Great Board Member

May 7, 2021

Three years ago, I wrote about recruitment for a new board member (here). In the article, I focussed on managing expectations, as Joan Garry so eloquently lays out. Fast forward to Spring 2021 and, while still accurate, the focus on new board recruitment has become so much more.

It is so essential to look at board composition and create a matrix. I wrote about a lot of the hard skills needed to succeed here. But what has become equally important these days is a soft-skills matrix. Is there gender parity? Does cultural representation exist? Is the board representative of the people that your serve? Obviously, some organizations will have things skewed based on their mission.

The days of the old white-haired boys club are quickly disappearing. As it should — the model is long overdue for a refresh. I have seen many ads lately touting the graduating governance class of 2021 from different institutions and the famous “head and shoulders” ads of the new boards. According to the 2016 census, over 22% of Canada identifies as a visible minority. Using my great statistics degree, that’s one-in-five. The photos in these ads certainly do not represent the one-in-five ratio. I saw an ad that had 6 out of 67 graduates that were visible minorities. And that was for a graduating class of corporate directors! (By the way, only 25 out of 67 were women, with women representing 50.4% of Canada’s population).

There is an amazing organization, Women Get on Board, created by my friend Deborah Rosati that encourages women to be on corporate boards — something that the nonprofit world could easily borrow. When the current representation numbers are so low, it seems to me that addressing the issue would be low-hanging fruit.

Look in the Mirror

This is a problem. If you don’t think it’s a problem, then you’re part of the problem. It is time for our governance models to reflect the times. I realize that there will be specific cultural and gender issues that will come inevitably come up, and those will need to be addressed as they occur. Still, as board members of a nonprofit organization, our duty is to ensure that we act justly. And a way to accomplish that is to have proper representation.

I am not saying to throw the governance model that you currently have out. I am still a firm advocate of a hard skills matrix. Using additional layers of gender and cultural representation on top of the skills matrix can only serve to strengthen your organization.

We need to do better. If a charity’s goal is to fix systemic inequalities, we must start from within. An examination of the makeup of a board member is a good first step.

Until next week.