PMA Consulting, LLC

Board Enlistment: The Reality of the Board Matrix

The development of the Board of Directors is undoubtedly one of the more critical responsibilities of any nonprofit organization. In our scan of the nonprofit sector, PMA has found that many organizations often rush to identify, recruit, elect and orient new board members in an effort to address their growing tension over vacant board seats and declining organizational health.

A board matrix can be a useful tool to help assess both desirable and undesirable areas of expertise, qualities, and characteristics of potential board members against the capacity of current board members and emerging organizational priorities. However, PMA cautions that the creation of a board matrix without careful consideration can mistakenly…

  1. Result in a universal checklist of needs that do not necessarily reflect your organization’s unique strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats.
  2. Replace several critical tactics including:
  • Establishing year-round board development efforts.

    Board development is far too critical and comprehensive to be conducted on an ad-hoc basis. Nonprofit organizations are beginning to view board development, not as a nomination process, but as a year-round leadership development process that goes beyond the identification, recruitment, election and orientation of members to provide constant support, training and evaluation.

  • Aligning recruitment with emerging priorities and your long-range plans.

    New board members should help to address the demands of newly uncovered challenges and opportunities, as well as the goals, strategies and objectives of a strategic plan. Ask yourself, what new expertise, qualities, and characteristics will future board members need to demonstrate in order for the board and the organization to execute the strategic plan?

  • Assessing the current board.

    Most organizations don’t recruit for the sake of recruiting, but rather work to identify and fill gaps. To achieve this end, a nonprofit organization must base their search in part on the capacity and shape of the current board, including strengths, challenges, opportunities and threats.

  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities.

    Taking the roles and responsibilities of the board for granted can reduce the size of the prospect pool, minimize the potential of incoming candidates, and increase the board’s overall churn-rate. A well-written and articulated job description will, not only clarify minimal expectations, but also position board members for successful implementation of key strategies and tactics as set forth by the strategic plan.

The board matrix is an effective tool, but meant to be utilized thoughtfully and grounded in the reality of the nonprofit organization for which it is intended. Take the time to understand your organization’s current resources, to identify future needs, and to construct an infrastructure to adequately develop incoming board members.