Nominations, Elections…Oh, no!

Nominations, Elections, and Decisions. Oh, No!

No worries. I am not going to talk about partisan politics. Now that we’re in the hot and heavy election season, it is a popular topic, however. But my topic today is going to be about YOUR association’s nominations, elections, and decisions. The decisions you make may determine the future success of your association.

There are many choices for associations to choose from as they develop and implement nomination and election policies and procedures – how you decide who is suitable for board directors and officers – and even how committee chairs are chosen. Does your association give the necessary attention to deciding what you do? I am not going to tell you what’s right for your association but I do want to pose a few questions that will perhaps trigger some ideas.

Nominating Processes. I think this process is the most important, and one that is often short-changed. What’s their function? To simply ensure a candidate meets very minimum criteria or to spend the elective year being “talent scouts” looking for ideal candidates for leadership positions (including committee members and chairs) – recruiting those they think qualified? Or – something in between? Do you have very loose policies such as: “if you’re a member in good standing, you qualify to run for the board of directors or even president,” or do you have strict criteria for candidate selection that involves interviews and more?”

Criteria? Most associations have criteria of some type to help qualify candidates. If yours doesn’t, consider developing some. The trend today is to ensure you have a “competency-based” board of directors. What are the competencies you’re looking for? (Great ideas can be found in Mary Byers and Harrison Coerver’s Race for Relevance. If you haven’t read it, do, and you have, re-read that section for sure.)

Be strategic. What is your association’s strategic direction for the next 1-5 years? Consider matching candidates to that direction, aligning those best qualified to help you reach that goal. For example, if one of your highly prioritized objectives is to put your financial house in order, choose candidates that have financial experience – in business, from school, or a previous job. Another example is technology and how to utilize it to your association’s best advantage. Technology-related objectives are frequently seen in strategic plans as very important. Find someone with experience in that area.

Interviews. Some association nominating committees have in-depth interviews with carefully-selected strategic questions. One of the questions I believe to be most important is “why do you want serve?” And don’t just accept the answer – “I want to give back.” Ask what they have to give back – what they offer, what they believe are key objectives for the association to move forward. These types of questions will help you prevent the “in it for sole purpose resume-building but will never attend a meeting” types. You’ll never be able to tell that unless you ask some direct questions whose answers will help you choose the best.
My personal opinion (even though I said I won’t tell you what do to) is that simply ensuring the candidate meets very basic criteria may very well increase the likelihood of the “old boys or girls” club. Be cautious.

Election Options. Many associations choose to have the entire membership elect both the board directors and officers. But a growing number has their membership elect the directors and the directors themselves elect the officers. Some are offering online elections only. Some have days-long election timeframes, whether in person or online. Some have limited time frames from nominations to elections (oh, would that our national elections do that!!)
The major caution that I would give association volunteer and staff leaders about elections is to follow your bylaws carefully. Too many associations have had huge disagreements and even lawsuits related to their elections. Don’t let it happen to you.

Decisions. What’s right for you? It’s a decision that each association must make on its own after thinking about all the options. Don’t just do what you’ve always done unless you have taken another look to see how effective it is in today’s world. For example, many volunteers don’t want to take years before they can serve on the board, yet they have much to offer now. Many leaders want to make sure that all the checkboxes have been marked – committee membership and leadership roles, been on the board forever before running for officer positions, etc. If that works for your members, so be it. But if you are struggling to find volunteer leaders, you may want to rethink.

Whatever you do, I wish you a calm, reasoned, and successful nominating and election season! It will be a refreshing break from the news…

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