One of the challenges facing associations today is association board member engagement. It’s critical that board members feel engaged and are actively involved in the important and useful undertakings of the organization. Board members are an association’s internal champions and ensuring they are active and keen to participate is the lifeblood of a strong association.

In an earlier article, Creating Board Volunteerism and Engagement, Jonathan Strauss discusses this very topic. As an association management company we consistently strive to assist association boards to increase their level of board member engagement. Here are five useful ways to assist in fully engaging association board members:

1. The Association Board Member Search

It all begins here. When hunting for new board members to join an association it is important to take the time to assess and research the potential candidate’s aptitude for becoming actively engaged. Some questions to think about are: How busy are they? What is their connection to the association? What other boards have they served on? What are their success stories? Who are they connected to? Don’t be afraid to pass on a candidate and moderately extend search timelines.

2. Bringing Association Board Members Up to Speed

Once the search is complete and new board members have been selected they need to go through the settling in process. Let them gain their bearings within the association by providing them with a creative and attentive orientation. Ensure that board members walk away with a complete understanding of the association, knowing what their role is and how being active and engaged in that role will aid in the success of the association realizing its goals and objectives. See what you can do to move beyond just handing them a “board binder”.

3. Embrace Creativity

Once the board understands what the association is all about and how their role fits within its objectives, foster a creative environment for them to share their ideas. Remember, board members have unique backgrounds and a wide array of success stories, experiences, knowledge and education. Be honest with board members about any challenges facing the organization and be open to their new ideas on how to tackle them. Assign meaningful action items to the members of the board and see what unique concepts transpire.

4. Have an Open Dialogue

Every association manager aspires to undertake efficient and effective board meetings. But a great meeting also needs to be about more than just reports and presentations. Leave an opening on every meeting agenda for a session of fruitful conversation – or identify an issue of strategic significance and make the time for this special discussion at each meeting. Set a time limit, it doesn’t need to be a free for all. This time for conversation gives board members the opportunity to express themselves and to be heard.

5. Look Outside the Association Board room

To truly have a fully engaged board member they need to be active outside of the board room as well. Seek fun opportunities for the members of the board to gather outside of the usual setting. A few ideas include social outings for team bonding, industry related facility tours or events, and a simple dinner together after each meeting. No matter what the opportunity board members will surely appreciate the increased opportunity for engagement.

By utilizing these five ideas, and working collaboratively with the board chair to implement them, associations can harness the full potential of a strong, committed and engaged group of board members. Actively engaged board members can be one of the most powerful assets any association possess.