Bill Pashby, chair of the panel on Director Recruiting, noted that there are about 160,000 not-for-profit and charitable organizations operating in Canada. They have an average of ten directors and from experience we know the average director stays as a director for about four years. This means that in 2009 there will be approximately 400,000 new directors elected or appointed to boards. This is many times more than the number of directors who will be appointed to the boards of offering companies operating in Canada.
Clearly, it is important that all of these not-forprofit organizations and charities obtain good directors. The nominating committees typically spend a great deal of time and effort trying to find the right director for the right position.
It is estimated that the revenue of the not-forprofit organizations annually in Canada is about $120 billion, with one-third of this amount involving hospitals, colleges, universities, and the remaining $80 billion dollars coming from small charities and associations. As the numbers demonstrate, this sector is important.
Mr. Pashby introduced the panel comprised of Signe Holstein, Elizabeth McIsaac, Lyn McDonell and Bill Krever. The panel discussed the issue of board recruitment and the need for diversity. There were some themes that emerged around the need to assess what skills a board had and what skills it needed in the context of the organization’s constituency.
Signe Holstein, the Executive Director of the Ontario Association Appraisal Institute of Canada, talked about the message an organization sends through the selection of its board members. Ms. Holstein suggested that in selecting a board, an organization should be aware of the “optics and representation” of the board by asking whether the board members accurately represent both the values of the organization and the identity of the communities they serve. There should be a feeling of affinity between the board and the community that is based on commonalities of diversity, goals, and philosophy. Ms. Holstein proposed that the following three questions be considered when determining board composition:
- Who or what are we missing on our board?
- Is our selection process legitimate and professional?
- Have we thought creatively about the issues facing the board that would allow us to expand our conventional perspective?
Ms. Holstein encouraged organizations in the not-for-profit sector to be aware that boards are the official public face of the entity and should reflect its philosophy and identity.
Elizabeth McIsaac, Executive Director of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council, emphasized the value of the “diversity dividend” in board member selection. The “diversity dividend” refers to the benefits that can be accrued from developing a diverse board of directors and optimizing the potential that the broader community has to offer. Ms. McIsaac commented on how certain organizations have found themselves stagnating due to their inability or unwillingness to adopt diversity as a primary value. Her view was that diversity should be viewed as an opportunity.
Lyn McDonell, President of The Accountability Group, a consulting firm, addressed the topic of proactive and prospective approaches to board recruitment. She encouraged boards to take a long-term view of the recruitment process by identifying promising individuals early and integrating them into the organization by offering them opportunities such as committee memberships. By recruiting able and willing individuals from professional programs or fundraising activities at an early stage, boards will be creating ambassadors for their organizations who will share the experience with their colleagues and promote the organization.
Bill Krever, the President of Better LivingHealth and Community Services and DMF for Seniors Charitable Foundation, charted the various stages of the development of organizations, highlighting the need for awareness at every stage of an organization’s growth. Fromrecruitment policies to interviewing practices to continuing education, organizations need to be conscious of the impact each stage has on the overall development and character of the organization. By developing coherent policies that underlie each stage, organizationswill be able to foster consistency and cohesiveness in their operations and board recruitment. As a group the panellists emphasized the need to consider the appropriate recruitment strategies for the board in question and, in particular, to review existing competencies and diversity and how best to fill vacancies on the board.