Published: over 1 year ago by Elizabeth Fu.
Membership is an important aspect of the life and longevity of any board association. I’ve been a member of the Chicago Public Library Foundation (“CPLF”) Junior Board for over 3 years now, and I have served as the Membership Committee Chair since January. With the transient nature of Chicago young professionals, board membership ebbs and flows, and we have had to fill a substantial number of spots over the year. This task can seem daunting at first, but putting the right processes in place can help attract new young professionals to an association and ensure membership continues to encompass a pool of diverse, creative and qualified young professionals. I can’t say I am a total expert in this area, but I can certainly share some insights into our processes at the CPLF Junior Board.
I highly recommend putting together a mission statement or selection rubric which states the types of qualities your board is looking for in its members, such as background/experience, commitment to public service, network, or interest/ability for involvement in your board’s events. This will help to ensure uniformity in the application review process, and even help current board members to understand what your organization is looking for in its applicants. Refer to the selection rubric when you draft the written application. The application should delve into the applicant’s background/experience with these qualifications. If possible, ask potential applicants to include a picture of himself or herself in the application - it is extremely helpful to put a face with a name during the application review process.
Once you have your mission and written application, assemble a spreadsheet to track potential new members. Anyone who reaches out to your organization should be added to the tracking sheet. Include their contact information, events they have attended and any additional notes. Whenever there is a board event, it will be easy to reach out to potential recruits. This information will also come in handy during the application review process.
Host a couple of recruitment events during the year so that new recruits can mix and mingle with current members of your board. It is important to schedule these dates early in the year so any potential recruits can add the events to their calendars. The CPLF Junior Board hosts two recruitment events per year – one in spring and one in fall. We have found these recruitment events are helpful because it gives us a chance to meet each new recruit and better determine whether or not each candidate would be a good fit for our board.
Before the recruitment event, assemble a recruitment committee of 5 - 6 current board members who will attend the recruitment event, read all written applications, and attend a meeting to review written applications.
Advertise the recruitment event on social media and on your board’s website. Make sure all members of your board are aware of the date and time of the event. The best referrals come for current members!
Recruitment Event Preparation
A couple of days before the recruitment event reach out to anyone on your potential new member tracking sheet. New recruits will be surprised that you remembered them, and will be more likely to attend your event. Also, provide your recruitment committee with a copy of your selection rubric so everyone is on the same page during the recruitment process.
During the Recruitment Event
Have a sign in sheet and name tags for all attendees. Mix and mingle with as many people as you can. Set a due date for written applications, and advertise it at the recruitment event. I recommend setting a due date for written applications that is within a few days of the recruitment event. People will be more apt to fill out an application in a short window.
Post Event Follow-up
Send an email to all attendees thanking them for attending your recruitment event and include a copy of your board’s written application. Remind each attendee of the application due date.
Recruitment Committee Application Review Meeting
Determine how many open spaces are available and meet with the recruitment committee to discuss written applications. Refer to your selection rubric during the meeting. If possible, meet within 1-2 weeks of the recruitment event. It may seem like a huge time commitment, but it’s easier for everyone to remember who they met shortly after the event.
New Member Orientation
Reach out to your newly admitted members and welcome them to the board. Plan a new member orientation to welcome your new members and introduce them to your board.
Reach out to any potential recruits who did not make the cut this time around. It is particularly important to keep this message positive. If an applicant was particularly strong, but there were simply not enough space, tell them to keep attending events and apply in the future. Always keep in touch with applicants who you think would have a better chance of being admitted next time around because availability on your board can change at any moment.
Review Your Recruitment Process
Once per year, review your recruitment process and look for ways to improve it. What is working? What can be improved? Always keep an open mind for ways in which your process can grow and change in the future.
Kim Kocek is a corporate attorney in Chicago. She lives in Lakeview, and plays clarinet in Windy City Winds - a Chicago symphonic band.