Due to the changing times as a response to COVID-19, many associations have been adapting operations and seeking new solutions. Member communications, continuing education and networking opportunities have been recreated with the purpose of providing return on investment for members.

With annual general meetings, conferences, and board meetings being held virtually, associations are really beginning to miss in-person interactions and the ability to have a conversation while not on video or the phone. While they can be good resources, they do not fully substitute an in-person conversation.

How is the lack of in-person meetings affecting board governance in associations?

In-person meetings for national boards representing various regions across the country are essential to board members and the association’s operations. Board members can talk freely and openly about the issues facing the association. They can easily discuss how to ensure the organization is working to achieve its mandate and provide value to members.

For more information please read this article on in-person vs. telephonic board meetings.

In-person meetings typically allow for a social or networking opportunity to build and strengthen bonds among the board volunteers. At these meetings, the board members are also able to find out more about their fellow volunteers. They learn about everyone’s strengths and experiences. Attendees are less distracted and more willing to spend more hours in this type of meeting to work to achieve the goals of the association. It is also much easier to discuss conflicts and collaborate to find the best solutions at a boardroom table.

How do association leaders interact with the membership during a pandemic?

In-person conferences, events, and the networking opportunities programmed into them are not easily converted to virtual events. One great feature of in-person events is that staff and board can meet and build relationships with members. These relationships can be used to create a situation where these people can be encouraged to participate further with the organization in a volunteer role. i.e., a task force, committee or even as a board member.

Not meeting in person takes away these opportunities to meet and talk with the membership. This ultimately will affect succession planning for the next board term and possibly into the future. Please see the following article on identifying future board members.

How do you identify future leaders within the association when you are operating virtually?

It is important the board of directors identifies the association’s goals and how to define the success of the organization. It is also important to discuss and clarify the type of leaders that the organization needs. Identify a pool of potential leaders and constantly update it. This can be part of the regular meeting structure to remind board members to identify potential leaders within their network.

During this pandemic where associations are not meeting in-person, it is important that the board and the assigned nominating committee stay on top of board succession planning and volunteer involvement. Encourage existing and past board members to identify potential members who can bring a strong contribution to the board.

When the call for nominations goes out, it is important for the board to speak to their connections and encourage people who they think would be great contributors to apply for a board position.

Communication with the membership to inform them of the change in annual general meeting and the voting of new board members is very important. See this article on virtual annual general meetings. It is important to encourage members to attend the virtual annual general meeting and contribute to the future of the organization by voting for the best candidates to fill the board vacancies.

Something that associations must remember when they are not meeting in-person is that board leadership has an impact on organizational performance; do not leave this to chance.

Eventually, association meetings will be in-person again. In the meantime, it is important to adapt to the necessary changes and put in the extra effort needed to effectively communicate and plan for strong leadership.