Serving on a nonprofit board entails many responsibilities. Board members are expected to advocate for the organization, make prudent decisions, ensure the organization complies with regulations, and plan for the future.

Filling a vacant seat is an important board function. Because there will always be turnover, and there may be some degree of urgency at times, it’s wise to have a recruitment process in place to help you search more effectively and efficiently whenever the time comes.


The first step is to identify the skills and experience needed to fill the vacancy. These may be different from those of the departing board member. Once your needs have been identified, draft a job description. Include key duties and responsibilities and any necessary requirements.


Some organizations maintain a file of potential board candidates. If you have such a list, start there. If you don’t have a list or if there are no suitable candidates for the vacancy you need to fill, solicit referrals from your inner circle (i.e., board members, executives, and volunteers). If no viable candidates result, widen the circle as necessary by making an announcement in a newsletter or blog or posting the opening on your Facebook page. If you need to cast a wider net, consider placing an ad in a local newspaper and/or posting your opening online. (There are websites devoted to nonprofit board recruitment.)


Filling a board seat is similar to hiring an employee. Use the interview process to determine whether a candidate’s skills and experience match your organization’s needs. Develop questions that provide insight into the candidate’s values and attitudes. Discuss the candidate’s background and any potential conflicts of interest.


Once a new board member has been selected, follow up with an orientation period. Provide the newcomer with information about the organization, including your strategic plan, current financial reports, recent board meeting minutes, and contact information for board members and staff.