My husband, Jarred inspired me to write this article. Jarred is a board volunteer. Earlier this year, he became Board President of a minor hockey association. After an election where thousands of members of the catchment voted him into this role, he hit the ground running. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, including amateur athletes. There is no template in place for any organization on how to pivot operations to reflect the pandemic. Therefore, in addition to his demanding career, which is also heavily impacted by the COVID—19 Pandemic, I’ve witnessed his volunteerism go way above and beyond.
Time Commitments of Association Volunteers
Being a board volunteer requires a large time commitment. You are the “face” of an organization and are responsible for all forward momentum of the organization. There will be meetings, task groups, required education, and many different forms of communication coming your way from all angles.
Watching Jarred answer every email and phone call from policy-makers, parents, coaches, association staff members, and colleagues on his board of directors makes me realize the importance of a dedicated volunteer on a board of directors.
Jarred answers enquiries at all times of the day. In fact, I’ve caught him sending emails in the middle of the night! His dedication has enabled the hockey association to stay on top of all the issues it faces. This includes an outbreak at a school in the region, adapting tryouts to legislation of reduced gatherings, screening each skater arriving at rinks, educating parents on social distancing, and many other issues. If he ever took his foot off the gas, the association would not be providing the best service possible to its members.
Being a board member requires passion and dedication to the position you have accepted.
Can You Provide the Time and Expertise Needed?
However, not every association has a Jarred (and his team). How does a board member ensure the association keeps moving forward to provide an outstanding return on investment to its members?
Before accepting a board role, volunteers must ask themselves if they are committed to sharing their time. When Jarred received his nomination, he asked me if he should accept, and run for the position. I bluntly asked him; can you provide the leadership and devotion to the association that it needs? He took a few days to think it over and felt confident that he was ready to take on the demanding role.
My colleagues have written some great articles that are resources for succession planning and deciding if they can be the volunteer the association needs.
Board Member Duties and Communications
Board members are legally required to fulfill their fiduciary duties. These duties require a considerable amount of time devoted to association business. However, simply attending board meetings is not enough. Board members take on additional roles to make the association a high-performing organization. For example, you could chair or join a committee. Aid the office with enquiries and provide expertise where the staff may not have it.
Board members must also respond to member and office emails in a reasonable timeframe. In our office it is policy to reply to all enquiries within 24 (business) hours. A board should also establish an appropriate return time. When a board neglects enquiries, members become frustrated and the issue does not get resolved, often escalating.
Board members must also have a mutual respect for all other volunteers, members, and staff of the association. Breakdowns often happen when someone feels that a person does not warrant a response. That is not the way a board representative should act.
Board Leaders Need to Pivot
While we know this pandemic has caused everyone many reasons to pivot and adapt, board members must especially do so. The other day, a board member told me, “I didn’t know how much I could get done in a day, until I had to try.” Especially during the pandemic, associations need to be working very hard to ensure member needs are being met. Members need increased benefits offered and communicated regularly. Companies are going to be making decisions on spending. Some of the first things to go will be association memberships.
Being a high-performing volunteer will lead to your association being a high-performing association. This will lead to your organization being a leader in its industry within the membership base and beyond. Next time you are thinking of joining a board of directors, ask yourself that very important question: Can I truly provide the volunteer hours needed to ensure that I am being the best asset possible to this organization?
Jarred is an outstanding volunteer. He has an equally amazing team of volunteers, staff, association members and amateur athletes. I encourage you all to try to be the best volunteer you can and always consider the result—the association members—or in his case the amateur athletes.