Called to Serve: The Prospect Pipeline

By John Pearson

Note: This is No. 13 in a series of blogs featuring wisdom from the 91-page gem by Max De Pree, Called to Serve: Creating and Nurturing the Effective Volunteer Board.

Max De Pree lists six duties of the Governance Committee sometimes labeled “Trustees Affairs Committee,” or “Board Development Committee”).

I summarize the Governance Committee duties similarly:
1. Cultivating and recruiting board prospects
2. Orientation and training of new board members
3. Engagement of all board members (including committee work)
4. Helping board members evaluate their own board service
5. Honoring and recognizing board members for their service
6. Reviewing the “vitality and effectiveness and appropriateness” of the board’s work

So on a scale of one to five (with five being “Extremely Effective”), how would you evaluate your board’s governance committee effectiveness on each of these six duties?

In my experience, the failure of a board to focus adequate time and energy on the “board prospect pipeline” often creates a cavalcading series of missteps. Those missteps include:
• The board expecting the CEO to find suitable board candidates. (The literature says it’s not the CEO’s job—it’s the board’s responsibility. I agree.)
• The board being satisfied with the status quo—and content with a lack of new blood and fresh thinking.
• The board being too focused on the present—not the future.
• And, frequently, the board not investing time in praying and spiritually discerning who God is preparing for board service.

If you don’t have a governance committee, you need one. If you do have a governance committee, ask for a “prospect pipeline” report at every board meeting. For more help, download the ECFA Governance Toolbox Series No. 1: Recruiting Board Members—Leveraging the 4 Phases of Board Recruitment: Cultivation, Recruitment, Orientation and Engagement.

BOARD EXERCISE: Agree on how many names should be in the “board prospect pipeline” (at various stages in the “dating” process) at any given time.


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.