The inability to attract and recruit volunteers to step into leadership positions is a common challenge for associations. The same, small number of volunteers tend to do the heavy lifting and when their terms expire, the association finds itself struggling to identify candidates who have the necessary skills, commitment and desire to fill those roles.
Here are four strategies to help you build your association’s board bench.
Develop the Job Description
Help future leaders understand the roles and responsibilities of board members and the types of skills necessary for the job. Prospective board members are more likely to serve if they have a clear picture of what they are signing up for. Be sure to include the skills required, the time and financial commitments necessary and highlight the benefits of board service.
Identify & Cultivate High Potentials
Staff and board members must view volunteer cultivation as a key part of their ongoing responsibility to sustain the future of the association. Actively seek out engaged members who participate in meetings, comment on social media and volunteer on committees and ask them about their interest in future board service. Have conversations and show those individuals that their contributions are indeed noticed and the association is interested in supporting their growth within the volunteer leadership. Task a board member “mentor” to build a relationship with identified prospects and help cultivate their interest in service.
Provide Leadership Development Tools & Training
In his ASAE article, “Prepare Board Members Before They're Board Members”, Mark Athitakis highlights the success of the National Ground Water Association in establishing a Director Candidates School to help develop board member prospects. The experience includes a 60- to 90-minute session in which interested members can learn the basics of board work. The Executive Director leads the conversation with the assistance of two or three board members so that the information can be related peer-to-peer and they can share their own personal experience. The school is offered as a session at the Annual Meeting and as a webinar and has helped neutralize misinformation about board service and improve members' leadership skills. Each participant receives a pin showing they have completed the program signifying their interest in board service.
Establish a Year-Round Commitment to Leadership Cultivation
Many associations focus on leadership development and board member prospecting when it’s time for their nominating committee to identify a slate of candidates. Developing your board’s bench requires year-round leadership cultivation and strategic commitment. Consider expanding the role of your nominating or leadership development committee to include establishment of a leadership development strategic plan. Engage both staff and the board in implementing these strategies and tracking progress over time.
How does your association build its board bench and cultivate future leaders?