Board-Matching: 6 Keys to Do it Well and Change the World

Imagine tens of thousands of talented business executives and professionals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives being thoughtfully and purposefully matched to nonprofit boards – globally, nationally, and regionally.  Matched person-by-person, board-by-board, based on each individual’s interests and qualifications to add value, and each nonprofit organization’s board-building needs and interests.


The opportunity is for employers, large and small, and their talented people to provide high impact volunteer service through effective nonprofit board participation.  There are candidates who are ready to be matched to boards to challenge poverty and hunger, and to advance the environment, justice, education, healthcare, culture and the arts, and economic development.


Having worked with major U.S. cities from coast-to-coast in establishing board training and placement programs since 1993, and training and placing hundreds of board candidates myself, I have seen what works and what doesn’t.  Additionally, from my perspective as a board consultant, I have seen the damage caused to boards when candidates were mismatched, and the disappointments among well intentioned volunteers when they wound up where they shouldn’t have been.


If you are establishing a board-matching program, here are the six keys to success to ensure successful matches:

  1. Conduct needs assessments with each nonprofit where you might refer candidates.
  2. Work with each board candidate face-to- face, one-on-one to understand their qualifications and interests; coach each candidate to help find the board that will fit his or her interests and where he or she can add value.
  3. Facilitate the introduction and communication between the candidate and the board, all the while respecting the candidate’s interests as well as the board’s process and interests.
  4. Train and prepare board candidates to understand what will be expected of them.
  5. Coach candidates for success once they join boards.  When they are properly matched, they are likely to ascend into leadership roles, so your continued guidance will be valuable.
  6. Staff your board-matching program with highly qualified professionals who have diverse backgrounds and perspectives, including in the nonprofit and business sectors.

How do you measure success? Through follow up with board candidates and nonprofits.  Be sure to include the rate at which the people you have placed ascend to positions of board leadership. 


Board-matching programs that are designed for the win-win-win for candidates, nonprofits, and the community will be transformative in elevating the governance and leadership of the world’s nonprofit sector. It is time for businesses and funders to invest in this worthwhile effort, and to do it right.


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