Defining Competencies to Build a Better Board



Picture this: An association's nominations process is set to begin shortly. The CEO - worried about a potential vacancy - turns to key staff members and asks if they have noticed any members with promising leadership potential for the board. Next, a staff member - eager to demonstrate considerable knowledge of the membership - shares a list of members with whom they enjoyed interacting.

We've all been there. But research tells us associations that actively seek members whose qualifications, skills, experience, and availability are aligned to the position are more successful. So what might that look like? There's a wealth of information on developing more effective boards. But, today's blog focuses on competencies that may be used to help identify and select board members that can move an association's strategic objectives forward.

Association leaders should identify what competencies are needed based on their association's specific needs and competencies of the current board members. Let's take a look at a sample list from Recruit the Right Board:


  • legal
  • finance
  • nonprofit/association governance
  • human resources
  • management
  • advocacy
  • marketing
  • branding
  • fundraising/development


  • influence
  • reputation
  • communications style
  • work habits
  • team orientation
  • innovative
  • accountability
  • emotional intelligence
  • empathy
  • resiliency


  • visionary
  • strategist
  • skills that support the strategic plan
  • catalyst
  • innovation
  • counselor
  • negotiating skills


  • leadership style
  • job level
  • personality trait

What competencies would you add to the list above?
How might having specific competencies represented at your board table advance your association's strategic objectives?

Next time the CEO reaches out to key staff to solicit suggestions for board vacancies, why not include a list of competencies the association is looking for?

Recruit the Right Board: Proven Processes for Selecting Critical Competencies 
Professional Practices in Association Management, Fourth Edition: The Essential Resource for Effective Leadership of Nonprofit Organizations