The purpose of this article is to identify strategies to build your association through the recruitment and retention of better board members; these strategies can also be applied to volunteers who are potential board members.

There are three cornerstone strategies to board building:

  • Identify the gap between strengths and weakness of your present board members as they relate to the present and future needs of your association.
  • A gap analysis creates a picture of your organisation and its place within it operating environment and beyond.
  • An outcome of this process can be a position description detailing the skills and experience for each board member’s role—not just job descriptions for officers, but for board members who chair each committee and ideally for committee members who may or may not be board members.

To help ensure that there is no misunderstanding about the expectation of a board member’s commitment, some boards state the expected minimum number of hours per month required.
“The old rule of thumb that directors [of for-profit corporations] do three hours of work outside the boardroom for every hour of board meetings they attend has become more like 10 hours outside the boardroom when every activity – including committee work, site visits, training and attending functions – is included.”
20 Questions Directors of Not-for-profit Organizations Should Ask about Board Recruitment, Development and Assessment is a no-cost downloadable resource that “explores the challenges faced by NPOs in recruiting the right people to serve on their boards, as well as the importance of director education and development and regular assessment of the board and its members.” It includes four self-assessment worksheets to help identify gaps:

  • Director Competency Matrix
  • Board Effectiveness Survey
  • Board Member Assessment
  • Performance of Individual Board Members
  • Recruit board members with the necessary skill sets to fill these gaps.

The Muttart Foundation and Alberta Culture and Community Spirit have published a downloadable workbook “Board Building – Recruiting and Developing Effective Board Members for Not-for-Profit Organizations” that addresses the challenges of recruiting board members.

  • Develop new and existing board members so that they become better leaders.

A first step in leadership development is an orientation session using your association’s Board Binder as the agenda for the training session.

If you do not know where to look for leadership development resources, then unbiased advice is available at your community’s United Way. There are also Volunteer Centre offices in most major cities.

The following are three outstanding sources of not-for-profit leadership development materials:

  • Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE) provides “relevant services and products that continuously improve, are affordable and in the forefront of not-for-profit knowledge, CSAE is recognized as the leading organization and role model by members, stakeholders and Canadians in developing excellence in not-for-profit sector leadership.”
  • American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) has an annual Associations Now Volunteer Leadership Issue that “is written to and for the volunteer leader. Get a copy for each of your board members and take advantage of the always-popular board primer – a collection of brief, nuts-and-bolts articles covering everything from essential board responsibilities to financial leadership.” Our office buys dozens of copies for clients each year.
  • BoardSource is a “resource for funders, partners and nonprofit leaders who want to magnify their impact within their community through exceptional governance practices.”

In addition to these resources we have many useful articles for volunteer leaders on our website at


[1] A survey of 120 directors by consulting firm Korn Ferry,