December 10, 2021

Better Board Make-up: 3 Matrix Picks, 2 List-Building Tactics

Recruiting the right people is half the work of crafting your dynamic nonprofit board of directors. Yet, with all you have to do as a CEO, getting around to board recruitment might be a challenge. Even in the best of circumstances, you risk running out of time and asking any warm body to serve. Use the following practical tip-top resources to streamline your board recruitment process to avoid this risk.

Who to Invite: Characteristics

Start with a board matrixes or two. Matrices allow you to analyze your current board’s composition and see gaps.

1. A Simple Matrix

Michael Uthoff’s Matrix includes four professional musts. According to Uthoff, to lead your organization, you need each of the following:

  1. A lawyer
  2. A printer or graphic designer
  3. A marketing or public relations specialist, and
  4. An accountant.

Hannah Baumgartner used this model to build Dance Now! Miami. (Hannah’ highlighted in Let’s Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.) The board and volunteers host a gala, do crowdfunding, intimate events, an annual appeal, and more to raise operating funds.

2. A Comprehensive Matrix

If you seek an extensive list, I recommend the Board Matrix Worksheet. It covers 60 categories.

3. Diversity Focus

Perhaps you’re focusing on diversity? The Board Matrix Worksheet covers some categories, but not nearly all. This chart lists a dozen opportunities to create a more inclusive board.  It’s based on Patricia Hill Collins’s work and a presentation by Dr. Antonio Cuyler.

A dozen diversity opportunitiesAll these matrices might be making you feel overwhelmed. Bear with me. You don’t need them all except as a starting place. Use them as a base to create a practical, customize matrix based on your needs.

How can you quickly deal with the “who to invite” phase of board recruitment? Review the list and mark the categories that matter to your nonprofit. In an Excel sheet, paste these categories in a column. In the top row, list the names of your board members.

And by the way, congratulations, you’ve just created a unique matrix to use now and, with tweaks, forever. Give it a spin, and then keep it as a starting place for all your board member recruitment process.

Who to Invite: Individuals

4. Asking Everyone You Know

Once you know the characteristics you need, you’re ready to gather names and to start talking to individuals. How to Recruit Stellar Board Members outlines a simple process and whom to ask for board member referrals. It also shares a way to create a long list of candidates.

If you’re still short on names after using the video recommendations, consider using resource number five,  LinkedIn.

5. Finding New Prospects

LinkedIn “is the world’s largest professional network on the internet.” How can it help you to identify board members? Use LinkedIn’s search function. To search for interest and skills you need. For example, a search for “photography” revealed 37 people in my network. By changing Connections to 2, it generated 41,000 results. (Figure 1)

LinkIn search with photography, 1st and 2nd connections
Figure 1: Searching for a key mission word

Narrow your results by checking “people open to board service.” (Figure 2) and other specifics, such as location and services. Depending on how many connections you have, continue the process until you find five to ten candidates for every board position you need.

LinkedIn Search Filter Open to Board Service
Figure 2: LinkedIn Search Filter for Board Service Interest


Your board of directors can make or break your experiences as a nonprofit CEO. Recruiting the right board members can be the start of a beautiful and productive relationship. Together you can lead your nonprofit to new heights. Start your recruitment process by using or creating a matrix to see gaps. Then explore your network to find an ideal candidate. When you know the kinds of people you need, reach into your network and those of your contacts to find ideal candidates. To get more answers to your board questions, visit the CEO Library.

Keep in touch. Sign up for Karen’s CEO Solutions. These newsletters are chock full of practical nonprofit wisdom and insights on challenges nonprofit CEOs confront.

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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