Nonprofits, associations, and chambers of commerce with good intentions for achieving board diversity may fall short because of recruiting mistakes.
To help find solutions to overcome obstacles related to diversity recruiting, I turned to Jim Taylor, Vice President for Leadership Initiatives at BoardSource.
Jim’s willingness to share his lived experience as a person of color recruited for boards helps create awareness that many organizations are missing.
Jim feels the following situation he has experienced is not an uncommon one.
How do you think Jim responds to invitations to join boards when it was clear, the invitations were because of race, the organizations didn’t consider his qualifications, and there were no expectations beyond filling a board seat?
He said no thank you. And those organizations lost the opportunity to add a terrific new board member.
He says, “Race should not be the only lens that boards apply to their search. Boards that focus on race as the sole qualification for board membership are employing an overly simplistic approach that is disrespectful to the people of color they are recruiting.” Recognize this sensitivity and strengthen your invitation by referring to specific contributions that you see the individual being able to make.
Jim offers these recruiting strategies. They are especially excellent for organizations that say their efforts are stalled because “they don’t know anyone.”
- “Be intentional about recruiting,” Jim advises. “Have a purpose statement that guides diversity and inclusion initiatives.”
- Grow your pool of prospects by going outside of your board members’ everyday circles. Identify candidates beyond the usual go-to individuals that seem to be most visible and most frequently asked.
- Reach individuals by posting board openings on sites such as DiversityJobs.com or Black Career Network. Contact organizations such as the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Black MBA Association, or the Hispanic National Bar Association for local connections you can network with.
- Enlist your staff in prospecting efforts. They will probably be aware of emerging leaders who aren’t yet on anyone else’s radar.
- Identify organizations serving the same mission emphasis and seek out relationships that could lead to new board members. In the business sector, discover which corporations have social responsibility priorities that match your service purpose and inquire about a company supported addition to your board.
- Recruit to your mission. Seek out individuals with a passion for your cause and ask for referrals.
- Use your volunteer program to expand diversification. Growing the number of diverse volunteers will provide a source for potential future board members.
- Conduct a recruiting debrief with each new board member. Ask how the process went for them, what might be improved, and what, if anything, might have caused them to hesitate on accepting your invitation.
Recognize that opening up consciousness and developing pathways to diversity success takes time and commitment to do the work necessary.
Does your organization have goals for increasing board diversity? What actions are you taking to achieve those goals?