Recruitment Is Everyone’s Job

on in Fundraising

Earlier this month, Carnegie Hall announced a new board chair – Robert F. Smith, a private equity titan named by Forbes last year as the second richest African-American (after Oprah Winfrey).

Quite a catch for Carnegie Hall, for multiple reasons – and a welcome relief after the controversy surrounding the resignation of its previous board chair Ronald Perelman.

But there’s one thing about the ascension of Robert Smith to board leadership that really stands out – his route in the door. His introduction to Carnegie Hall was not through a board member, or even a recruiter – it was through a contact of Carnegie’s executive/artistic director, Clive Gillinson.

hands on deckAccording to a NY Times Article about Robert Smith’s selection as chair:

“His path to Carnegie began at Petrossian, the restaurant a block north of the hall, where he had lunch a few years ago with Mr. Gillinson. A mutual friend introduced them, since Mr. Smith was interested in music education, a major focus for Carnegie.”

From that fateful conversation, Mr. Smith joined the board in 2013, progressed from supporting existing programming to making a million-dollar pledge to launch a new program in 2015, and the rest is history.

We often think of board recruitment as the board’s primary job, since that’s the avenue that assures the board’s future. And it is.

But it’s all hands on deck, in this over-committed age, to get the right people to the table.

And it’s especially critical to transcending the “like-recruits-like” syndrome – board members recruiting people just like them leading to new board members recruiting other board members just like them – that the process reach further than the board itself in order to gain access to a new circle of potential supporters.

The executive director’s network can be critical in this process. And, frankly, the ability to partner with a high-powered, high-functioning board is such a critical factor in an ED’s ability to steer a nonprofit correctly, that it’s worth it for an ED to spend the time and personal credibility to get the right people on the bus.

In a conversation about board prospects, the “we” in this age-old query: “Who do we know who fits what we’re looking for, or who might know someone who might fit the bill?” must be as expansive a “we” as possible.

Cast the net wide enough, and the right prospects will surface. A tycoon with a secret passion for sustainable agriculture…a Fortune 500 CEO with a hidden love of chamber music…a rock star with a lifelong commitment to early learning…they’re out there, and findable, when everyone is looking.

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