Our Board Recruitment Process

For the past few months, this body has been applying Catalytic Thinking to the topic of board recruitment. This post is a summary of the work we did to design our recruitment process, and a reveal of the final outcome.

To see the questions Catalytic Thinking led us to ask, click here.

In our February discussion, we dove into the first two questions:

Who will be affected by our board recruitment process?
As you look through the list at the link, you’ll see that the answers were more than just “new board members.” The more we consider who will be affected by any decisions, the more we will include all those people in our thinking (at the least) and our work (at best).

What will that process make possible for those individuals and groups?
Included in that question was one that is rarely asked during board recruitment: “What kinds of experiences do we want people to have on the board, and in the recruitment process itself?” You can see all the answers to those questions here.

At our March conversation, we continued the discussion of outcomes, focusing specifically on what the recruitment process would make possible for Creating the Future. We then began considering the conditions that would lead to the outcomes we listed in February. Those conditions questions included…

What would people joining the board need to know, in order for those outcomes to be realized? What would they need to feel? What would they need to be assured of?
Again, most recruitment processes consider what the organization needs. Catalytic Thinking leads us to think about EVERYONE’s needs, especially the people we hope will join us as board members! You can see the answers we came up with at this link.

Specifically what would BIPOC people joining the board need to know / feel / be assured of?
Given our values, this was hugely important for our recruitment process. You can see our response at this link.

Board Member Qualities We’re Seeking
Having considered the conditions for success that would be necessary for folks joining the board, in April we considered what conditions would lead to success from the perspective of Creating the Future. (You can watch or listen to that discussion here.) Hildy suggested questions she detailed in her Board Recruitment workbook:

What qualities are we looking for in board members? More to the point…

  • What qualities must every board member have?
  • What qualities would it be nice if some board members had?
  • Which qualities do we never want to see on our board?

MUST-HAVE qualities:
– Sense of humor. (We like to have fun at our meetings!)
– Comfort with questioning one’s own assumptions
– Willingness to bring one’s whole self to the meeting (vs. representing a position or organization)
– The time to commit to meetings 1/month
– Enjoy conversation and exploration
– A “team player”

NICE TO HAVE qualities (not everyone, but perhaps some people):
– Wisdom and calm
– A spiritual practice embracing something bigger than oneself / mindfulness

NEVER in a million years qualities:
– People who believe being a board member is separate from being ourselves
– People who dominate the conversation
– People who have to be right / bullies

The Invitation Process
Finally, we asked about what a process would look like to embody that. The process would make possible everything we listed in prior months, as well as the the necessary conditions that process would create. What sort of process might do all that?

Hildy described the process that has been in place since Creating the Future’s earliest days. For most board members, that process felt so natural they do not even remember that is how they came to join the board.

1) Attend a meeting. People who are interested / curious about Creating the Future are invited to join us for a board meeting. Just as it is with all our meetings, those individuals are included in the discussion (vs. acting as quiet observers).

2) Attend again. If they are excited about the work the board is doing, they are invited back to join the conversation again – and perhaps again after that!

3) These invitations are NOT to join the board. We have not told these individuals that we might be considering them as board members. We are simply inviting smart, fun, curious individuals to join our conversations, just as we routinely invite community members to be part of these discussions.

4) Board discusses inviting them. After several meetings, one or more board members will ask the rest of the board, “How would you feel about inviting Suanna to the board?” By that time, board members have had a chance to get to know Suanna, to get a sense of whether there is a fit.

5) Inviting them to the board. Only then do we reach out to Suanna, to ask if she would like to join the board. Suanna has also had a sense of what she is joining, and feels more ready to join in the conversation immediately. Her “orientation” began the moment she joined her first conversation with us.

Board members agreed that this feels natural, organic, and aligned with who we are. They agreed that they would like to continue that approach.

At this particular meeting, the board had just added a new member to the team. That process provided the perfect example of how organic this feels. 

When the board was asked about adding that new person to the board, one board member responded, “I thought he was already on the board!” Imagine it feeling so natural when new board members join that you forget they weren’t officially “board members” before that moment!

Next Steps
The big action step is that board members will begin inviting people to our discussions – whether or not they might eventually be candidates for the board. Rather than inviting people to a “meeting,” we will be inviting people to be part of the conversation.

What became clear is that this is about board members stepping into the role of ambassadors for Creating the Future. Which raised the issue of what it will take for board members to feel comfortable in that role! (The answer, at least in part: Practice!)

Board Orientation
Lastly, we considered what would prepare new board members to participate. Everyone agreed that at its most effective, recruitment and orientation are the same thing – that people must learn about the organization and the board BEFORE deciding if they would like to join.

That led to discussion of what it would take for ALL meeting participants to feel prepared for the discussion. Some ideas included…

  • Watch past meetings, to get a sense of how we are together
  • Read / watch video / learn about Catalytic Thinking, to feel prepared for the questions we will be asking
  • Have a central location with all materials that will help meeting attendees feel prepared

By the end of this discussion, our recruitment process was in place. And we are looking forward to adding new people to our board.

And so we are inviting YOU. If you would like to participate alongside this group of curious, fun, wise, open-hearted souls, please let us know. And come join one of our discussions!!


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