February 6, 2018

3 Fresh Approaches to Recruiting a Diverse Board

In Casablanca, corrupt Captain Renault, ensnared in Nazi-controlled Vichy France, needs to arrest someone. Instead of hand-cuffing the hero, he turns to his inferiors and instructs them to “round up the usual suspects.”

When we hunt for diverse board members, we often round up the usual suspects. These headline-makers are recognized, respected, and busy. The results often frustrate. Why? The usual suspects are usual because everyone else already thought of them first.

You want to diversify your board. You recognize the value of inclusion both for the wisdom it brings and the positive impact it will have on your income and community building. It’s the right thing to do, and it impacts every part of your mission. How might you avoid the usual approach and succeed? Where might you look? Read on for three actionable recommendations and a mindset miracle bonus.

Seek the Up-and-Coming

Instead of stalking the usual candidates, find people who will be the top choice in a few years. That is scout for people seeking to enhance their resumes and new arrivals who need and want to get involved. For instance, approach your CPA, banker, lawyer, and printer, and ask about new hires in their firms and contact lists. Check out specialty chambers of commerce near you. Don’t just go to stalk out prospects. Go to learn something and meet people.

Ask for Advice.

Don’t eliminate the usual suspects. Instead, ask for their advice. See if they can point you to individuals with interest in your cause. Time your request after asking them to be your guest at a luncheon, attending their paid event, or treating them to coffee. Follow Give to Get below.

Give to Get.

It is a universal networking truth that to get, you must give. How can you first help a collection of prospective board members with a need before you unveil your request? Ask. Listen. Offer. Follow-up. Intentionally, reconnect over the next three to six quarters. Repeat and grow a pool of prospects.

Bonus: Mindset Miracles. Diversity happens first inside your head. To plant the diversity seed and grow it, be curious. Step into other communities—Cross imaginary boundaries. Read on the topic. Try Waking up White. Don’t do this alone. Enlist existing board members and staff to be curious, attend “others” meetings, and explore “others” communities. Read other communities’ newsletters. Ask for advice if you are unsure of which publications to pick up.

Thank you for your efforts to diversify your board and improve your organization and your community. This post discusses achieving greater board diversity by growing inclusion, recruiting classes, and establishing feedback loops. Pick an action to begin today and contact Karen for a free discovery session to solve the CEO challenges on your desk.

More Resources

Increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are on your agenda, even if you didn’t place it there. You face pressure from funders, donors, staff, and board members to move forward on social justice. Not only that, many nonprofit leaders I speak to embrace that greater DEI is overdue–that it’s the right thing to do.
Few roadmaps to get there exists. This collection of resources invites you to get underway and continue your journey. Discover:

Do you have a specific issue you’d like to tackle? Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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