How to Recruit, Coach, and Retain Board Members

Board Development

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Having an effective board on board at your nonprofit is essential to being able to run your organization well. But if your nonprofit is struggling to find board members or keep board members, this can be a serious detriment to your performance. How do you recruit, coach, and retain your board members? This blog post will explain how to do just that! 

How to recruit board members

Before worrying about how to coach and retain board members, you first need a full board. That’s where being able to recruit board members comes in. Here are our tips for recruiting new members to serve on your board of directors. 

Start with your volunteers

Your volunteers are there to support your nonprofit. What better way to put their good intentions to good use than by inviting them to sit on your board? This is especially helpful advice if you’ve got volunteers with skills that would be helpful on a board of trustees.  

Ask your donors

Your donors have an interest in seeing your nonprofit succeed. Ask major gift donors to sit on your board and help your nonprofit be more successful. Major donors on your board can be a major asset, especially if part of their board commitment is donating to your nonprofit organization.  

Get recommendations from your current staff and board 

Chances are, the perfect candidate is someone that’s connected to your existing board or staff. Ask for recommendations from your board or staff members for potential replacements for your missing board seats. 

Advertise the vacancy

If finding a board member from your pool of volunteers and donors doesn’t work and your existing board doesn’t nominate replacements, it’s time to look for board members outside of your organization’s reach. That means advertising for new volunteers using social media, your newsletter, and any other communication channel that is relevant to your nonprofit. The perfect candidate may just see your call for a board member and volunteer this way. At the very least, you may acquire more resumes to look at in your search for the ideal board member. 

Coaching new board members

Once you’ve filled your board member vacancies, it’s time to get your new board members onboarded. It’s important to get new members up to speed quickly to prepare them to serve on your board. Here are our tips to accomplishing that. 

Host a board member orientation

A board member orientation is a great way to get new board members working toward the same goal as your other board members. Have them meet with your executive team and experienced board members for a rundown of what happens at board meetings, what’s expected of each member of the board, and what the board is working on now. Take the time to answer the new board members’ questions and ensure they’re settling into their new role. 

Ask new board members to sign a board agreement

Once the orientation has been completed, spell out the responsibilities of the board in a board agreement and ask the board member to review and sign the agreement to begin serving on the board officially. This document serves to get everyone on the right page when it comes to board expectations and responsibilities. It can also outline the benefits of serving on the board as well. 

Create a board mentorship program

Match new board members up with a more experienced board member so that they can form a mentor/mentee relationship. You want to make sure that the veteran board members are showing new members the ropes, and what better way to accomplish this than allowing new members to shadow an existing member for a little while? This is a great way to get new board members practical experience and get new and old board members to integrate together quickly and get to work making a difference at your nonprofit organization. 

Retaining your board members

Your work’s not done just because you’ve successfully filled the empty seats on your board and everyone is working together toward common goals at your nonprofit. You have to then focus on board member retention. Here are our tips on how to retain your board members and ensure their satisfaction with serving your organization as a board member. 

Get board members emotionally invested in your work 

It’s easy for board members to become detached from those your nonprofit serves without reminders of why they became a member of the board in the first place. Remind them of why they should be emotionally invested in their board work by regularly reminding them of who you serve and why. You can share your heartfelt appeals with your board and ask them for feedback. You can share positive stories of what your nonprofit made possible. Your goal should be to show how your board is making a difference not only to your nonprofit, but to those you serve as well. Keep them connected to the mission in order to have a passionate board that works hard to address the problem your nonprofit was created for. 

Make service a fun experience 

Your board members are people, not robots! They don’t report to board meetings because they’re programmed to. They’re volunteering their time and talent, which takes them away from their families and other responsibilities they may have. Make their service worth their time. Make board meetings fun by building in a chance to socialize during the meeting. Try not to focus so much on the work that board members are treated like worker bees rather than individuals who are volunteering their time and giving their money to make a difference. 

Another important way to keep your board coming back for more is by feeding them at board meetings. These meetings tend to be long with a lot to discuss. Help break up the monotony of another board meeting by offering refreshments. Considering their human needs will show your board members that you care about them and will make them much more likely to stick around. 

Efficient meetings are key

Your board is likely made up of business leaders, parents, and people who lead busy lives. Efficiency is important when it comes to conducting board meetings. When you’re going to schedule a meeting, first determine if a meeting is necessary. If you can share the information with board members via email instead of a meeting, don’t waste their time with a mandatory meeting of the board. 

If you have a legitimate reason to meet, make sure you get down to business and efficiently take roll, discuss the items on the meeting agenda, and get adjourned quickly so that board members can get on with their busy schedules. By respecting their time and keeping meetings short you’re showing your board members that you respect their time and commitments. That can go a long way toward retaining vital board members for your cause.

Provide ongoing training

Many board members quit when they feel they’re no longer contributing to the success of the organization. This feeling can come from a variety of reasons like diverging interests, new time commitments, retiring, etc. That said, you don’t want board members to quit because they fear they lack the relevant skills to continue serving your nonprofit. Providing ongoing training to your board members helps ensure they can tackle any tasks thrown at them. 

Provide training in fundraising and other subjects that require board member involvement.  By keeping their skills sharp, you can retain capable board members who are happy to grow their skills in service to your nonprofit organization. 


With these tips in mind you should be able to recruit, coach, and retain your board members. Having a stable board is essential for the health of your nonprofit organization. That’s why it’s so important to stop the revolving door of board members and instead retain people who are passionate about your mission and who will work diligently to make a difference at your nonprofit. 

Want to learn more about how to get your board members involved in fundraising? Check out this blog post for tips. 

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