While filling open board positions is one of the most important things you can do for your association, we often don’t take the time to do it right. You’ll be working side-by-side with these volunteers who may be leading your organization for the next two years, four years, or even longer. Therefore, it is more important than ever that you fill your board with volunteers who are passionate, committed and possess the skills needed to lead your association.
You may be tempted to cut corners when it comes to filling open board positions, you need to remember to take the time to put in the prep work.
Review your processes and procedures
- Review your by-laws and organizational policies to make sure you are following any necessary procedures.
- Review your timeline. Does it give you adequate time to find good candidates? Does it give your members enough notice and time to participation in the election process?
- Review your board job descriptions. Does it adequately describe the role, skills needed and time commitment required? If not, now is the time to make changes.
- Review the size, terms and positions of your board. Are there changes that could be made that would strengthen your board? If so, what does it take to make those changes?
Assess your current board
- Is your board diverse in color, gender, age, cultural background, etc.?
- Does it reflect not just your membership, but the communities your serve?
- What are its strengths and weaknesses?
- What skillsets would help propel your board forward?
Have honest conversations
- Focusing on your current board is also important during the nomination process.
- Do you have current board members whose terms are not up yet, but are continually missing meetings or seemed disengaged?
- If so, have an honest conversation with them. Ask how you can help them re-engage and if they want to continue to serve. Often you may find that a volunteer is relieved to be given “permission” to drop off a board because they were only staying out of a sense of obligation.
Build a pipeline
- Build a bigger pipeline than you need to for openings
- Encourage your nominating committee to look for candidates that fulfill the diversity and strengths needed for your board
- Use the pipeline to also fill vacancies in your committee with a goal to eventually pull board candidates from your committee rosters (where you will have had chance to access their performance)
- Tap high performing volunteers to help you identify possible candidates (ask your best volunteers to find people like themselves)
Share realistic expectations
- Be honest with them about the challenges and opportunities that the board is currently facing.
- Don’t sugarcoat what you expect of them. You want volunteers who are willing to role up their sleeves and do the work, not just fill a seat.
- Don’t tell them that “we make it easy for you to do your job” or “we do most of the heavy lifting for you.” Instead tell them that you will provide them with the training and tools they need to successfully fulfill their role.
- If they can’t commit to serving now, ask if they would be willing to commit in a year, or even 2-3 years. Building a bench for the future will only make your board stronger.
At the end of the day, you want your volunteers to feel happy and fulfilled in their board roles and you want board member who will you further your organization’s mission and position it for success in the future. By slowing down and taking the necessary time before your board election or appointment, you will achieve both these goals.