All Over The Board: Governance Takes Skill and Commitment

Today, many organizations require the involvement and the governance of a board of directors. The process for corporate boards to recruit board members can be complex. It can involve regional and national postings, detailed reference checks, and even securing the use of headhunting services to find the best candidate. Non-profit organizations often require the governance of a board of directors, as well. While recruitment for a non-profit may be less formal, the end goal remains the same: creating a board of directors made up of the best, possible individuals—individuals who want to get involved.

Being involved stems from wanting to be involved. While there might be prospective board members out there who approach non-profit board governance as a casual commitment—mainly to enhance a CV or a LinkedIn profile—or potential board members who like the idea of volunteering for a board but who aren’t quite prepared for these roles, in addition to wanting to be involved, board recruitment also concerns finding individuals who will become involved.

Cory Furman is considered somewhat of an expert on the subject of boards as someone who has, indeed, become involved. While he won’t call himself an expert, he has an impressive list of organizations with which he has served on for years or is currently serving, a testament to his long-term commitment to giving back. Mr. Furman, Q.C., Principal at Furman IP, an intellectual property law and agency firm in Regina, Saskatchewan, was the Chair of the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce, among others, is currently on the boards of eHealth Saskatchewan, Cowessess Ventures Ltd. and is the current Chair of Creative Saskatchewan.

Furman advises that while some individuals might become recruited as board members and lack the necessary commitment, these individuals usually move on fairly quickly, because there is just too much work to do. Not-for-profit boards have some freedom with respect to the procedures with which they recruit individuals. They will often look for potential board members who possess pertinent technical or subject-matter knowledge or members who have had prior board experience, including individuals from differing professional backgrounds. Furman explains that it is a good idea to “have some degree of fresh ideas infused to the leadership of the organization.” He says that new members are often recruited by member referral and that formal or informal reference checks are usually completed. As well, it is more the practice than not to use ‘a skills-based matrix’ in recruitment, because this “can be used to help determine if a candidate would be a good fit for an organization.”

For boards that aren’t using an official skills-based matrix for recruitment, often they will search for individuals who have the best experience for that particular board or position. While it stands to reason that boards want to recruit individuals with a genuine interest for the mission of the organization, Furman shares that the best boards are made up of a “diversity of opinion around the board table,” and that recruiting individuals “with lots of different backgrounds has always been important because you get the best discussion.”

Sometimes recruitment is not always highest in a board’s priority list because often boards have seen the same members committed to an organization for many years. Having committed and active members from differing backgrounds and professions is key from a recruiting standpoint as well as for ongoing governance, to avoid the risk of complacency and to ensure the best leadership.