Listen to The Small Nonprofit podcast on your favourite platform:

how to recruit your dream board with Andrea Shirey

Also listen at: iTunesGoogle MusicStitcher

Managing the board often gives EDs a headache. When a board functions effectively, it can be an organization’s greatest asset, but when it doesn’t, it becomes an extra burden for the ED and the rest of the staff. So how do you build your dream board from inside out? On today’s episode, Andrea Shirey, CEO of One Nine Design and expert on nonprofit board management, shares with us step-by-step tips on improving your board’s experience and impact.

Myths that Andrea wants us to leave behind

  1. People with tons of board experience are going to fix your board. Bringing in someone who is sitting on multiple boards is not necessarily going to fix things. Assess whether this board member even has the capacity to support your board, and be mindful that sometimes positioning a new board member as “the fixer” of problems can set the board member up for failure and create unintended friction within the board

  2. “We need to train our board!” - instead of focusing so much on training your board, focus on untraining them on bad habits first. Assess what they are doing right now that is not a good use of time and resources. See the tips below for some of the examples on how to “untrain” them.

Andrea’s tips on increasing board engagement

  1. Improve communication with your board with the ED’s executive report. Avoid pages of long content without focus. Instead of writing the ED’s report the night before the board meeting, keep a document throughout the month to keep track of highlights and items you need the board’s support. When presenting the report, be very clear what kind of support you’re trying to get from the board members. See below for Andrea’s free Executive Director Board Report template.

  2. Flip your board agenda upside down. Make the board meeting engaging and interesting by sharing a good story right at the top and have the most important discussions at the beginning. Leave the procedural stuff at the end.

  3. Leverage your existing board members to recruit board members with authenticity and specificity. When you’re writing out a board recruitment posting for public distribution or your board members to share, avoid jargons and give a succinct summary of your organization’s theory of change and what is the expected commitment of your board members. Don’t be afraid of specifying the skill sets and expertise that you’re looking for.

Favourite Quotes from Today’s Episode

Post your favourite quote on social to share with us!

“Start with your current board, understanding what you need to move forward, and take the right steps to recruit the right people. An ideal board is made up of the right people for the right time for the organization who understand why they're there and understand what's expected of them.”

“Improving the current board members’ experience and recruiting the right people to the board needs to happen simultaneously. When you improve the current board members’ experience, you’re setting them up to help the organization effectively. A good and specific place to start is with the Executive Director’s report.”

Resources from this Episode

The Good Partnership


Andrea Shirey at One Nine Design

Better Board Strategy Guide

Executive Director Board Report Template