Governance Articles

Finding Good Volunteer Leaders For Association Board Officers Is No Accident


No matter how good your intentions, you can't take your association where it needs to go unless you have the right board and officers. How you select the nominating committee and the guidelines under which it operates will determine what kind of leadership you will have.

No matter how good your intentions, you can't take your association where it needs to go unless you have the right board and officers. How you select the nominating committee and the guidelines under which they operate will determine what kind of board and officers you will have.

The nominating committee should be broadly representative of the membership, active and familiar with the rising stars of the association. The committee should be chaired by a current member of the board of governors, who serves as liaison between the committee and the board, and not be composed of past officers or board members, who tend to know yesterday's leaders.

Needs Analysis

The search for nominees should begin with a careful analysis of what talent, expertise and representation is needed to successfully address the emerging challenges facing the association. Take inventory of the skills that will be necessary to achieve your objectives and look for leaders who have them. Have the broadest possible representation to ensure that all members have the confidence that their interests are being addressed fairly

Identifying Potential Leaders

Because boards tend to perpetuate representation among the same segments of the membership, it is important to adopt criteria when nominating people for leadership positions. Consult a wide variety of sources for nominations that meet these published criteria. When considering potential candidates, the nominating committee should include the following considerations in its screening process. Has the candidate:

  1. Demonstrated a willingness and ability to devote the time to carry out substantive assignments in the past? Can the candidate attend the required meetings and do the necessary work between meetings?
  2. Demonstrated a willingness to put the interests of the association ahead of personal interests? Many people find this impossible and instead focus on the impact that board actions will have on themselves or a special interest group.
  3. Served in a meaningful, productive leadership role, rather than in a figurehead role? Avoid nominating people who may have served in high positions but demonstrated little leadership.
  4. Shown skills in reasoned thinking and intelligent debate? Does the candidate have the potential to contribute to the positive consideration of issues at board meetings and in meetings with members?
  5. The ability to negotiate and compromise? Rigidly insisting on a point of view, no matter how well reasoned, leads to stalemate and gridlock.
  6. The ability to lead? The board is the incubator for future officers. Board members will be given important assignments that require strong leadership abilities.

Candidates for Officer Positions

Potential officers should have the ability to help diverse personalities merge in a social whole. They must be able to tactfully restrain the more vocal board members while encouraging more silent members to express their views. They must be able to foster unity within the board, secure loyalty to the association's mission, vision and objectives, and be able to make the best use of the collective wisdom of board members.

The Kind of Candidate to Avoid

Avoid the genial person who continually gets selected for and elected to ever-higher office based on likeability and seniority rather than on competence. This kind of person is often selected for being a good guy and to avoid hurting his or her feelings. This is a violation of the fiduciary responsibility to represent the membership faithfully by selecting the best possible leadership.

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