Without seeing one another in-person, building connections is a difficult thing to do. How do you find the future leaders for your association while using Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or GoToMeetings?

The Past Art of Connecting

The way we connect with each other has changed in 2020 and the opportunities we once had are gone for now. Many associations rely on their annual in-person events to bring members together to provide education and networked learning opportunities. These days will return but we still don’t know when.

Why did nominating committees find these events valuable for board recruitment? Two-to-three-day conferences brought members together, allowing them to connect and interact on a professional plain (continual learning) but also a social plain. The social aspect has been key in connecting members (breaks, lunches, dinners, and social events) among many of the associations I work with as an association management company (AMC) serving multiple associations.

At a conference, the nominating committee had the opportunity to connect with members one on one and discuss the needs of the board and the opportunities that exist. The in-person aspect also allowed you to scout any members with leadership qualities that might benefit the organization moving forward. The pandemic has changed this, and nominating committees need to re-evaluate and get creative with how they approach board recruitment.

How Do You Find Board Leaders?

First, you need to know what and who you are looking for and the skill sets required for the board. You can gain some insight from reading Building Better Boards: Recruitment and Retention of Board Members to help with the areas you need to address.

Once you have an idea of what skills are necessary, the nominating committee should enlist the whole board to start sourcing based on who they know. Rely on connections within the association and reach out to explore the membership for anyone that might be good for board roles that need filling.

Publish Your Needs

Use your communication vehicles to reach out to members to get the word out of what positions are available. In your communication, be clear about the board roles and the skills needed to fill them. Relay the job description, time requirements, and typical meeting schedules to the potential volunteer board members.

Connect Virtually

Now that in-person meetings aren’t taking place, a virtual video meeting  is a good start conversations about volunteer opportunities. Virtual cannot replace the in-person connection but it does allow you to read facial expressions. It also gives you an opportunity to connect with the person more effectively than over the phone. Virtual is also how you would be connecting for the foreseeable future until it’s safe to meet in person. It will provide some indication on how they might adapt to the communication medium.

Be Clear on Commitment

When meeting with prospective board members make sure you are clear about the commitment you are looking for. Right now, with COVID still leaving in-person meetings up in the air, they need to be aware of the weekly commitment for their board work. Clearly state what role you see them playing in the association after you have gone through the strategic priorities. Tying the priorities to their skill set will help with the buy-in process for recruitment. Describe the current projects / issues the association is experiencing and speak to the strategic plan of the association.

Something that the nominating committee needs to consider is how the board is planning on conducting business in a post-COVID world. Really good article at Associations Now by Mark Athitakus.

Open Discussion

Talk about the things you as leaders need to consider when looking for new board members. The article I mentioned above discusses the changes experienced by associations and clearly the way meetings are taking place and the frequency of the meetings. With the changes mentioned in this article it might impact the time commitment required by future board members.

Be clear and honest about the changes your board has been experiencing. When talking with potential board volunteers, discuss their experiences, skill sets, and the available time commitment to the board.

Virtual and hybrid meetings will be staying a while. Therefore, the sooner the nominating committee and the board can adapt to this, the better off your organization will be.

To read further about board recruitment, check out my colleague’s article Succession Planning During a Pandemic.