How to Attract & Retain Board Members

How to Attract & Retain Board Members

“We are having difficulty getting members to nominate as Board Directors.”


This was a comment made recently by a frustrated Association President just before the Annual General Meeting. They commented on how they had a number of vacant Board positions, but had received just two nominations. “I am sick of tapping people on the shoulder to nominate and join us,” they said. 


Associations rely on their Board members to ensure proper Governance and to develop and implement strategies and policy. Many associations in Australia are fortunate enough to have their members seeking positions as Board members, but at the same time other associations can struggle to attract members.


This can cause significant issues for an association. If you are struggling to attract new Board members and to retain existing ones, considering some different strategies to deal with this problem is a good idea.


Importance of reliable Board members


The role of the Board of an association is vital and multi-faceted. The Board are responsible for making major decisions about the policy and strategic direction of the association. They require a high-level understanding of the association’s goals, operations and performance so that they can act in the best interests of stakeholders, serve as an external advocate, and assist the association’s management to work towards successful outcomes.


A Board works best when it includes a variety of skilled professionals with different backgrounds and experience. Board members typically have other responsibilities outside of the association, but they should bring their expertise into the role and use their experience to further the stated mission of the association.


Board members should also ideally stay in the position for a significant amount of time. Associations with high turnover on their Board – for example, members who have all served less than twelve months – will struggle to grasp the big picture and make long term decisions. Although external experience is important, a deep understanding of the association is also required for the Board to be successful. 


While there will always be new members and the need for existing members to move on, having a healthy balance of people who know the association well and have served on the Board for a few years helps to keep the strategic direction in place.


How to attract Board members


Not having a full complement of Board members can cause several problems when it comes to managing the affairs of the association. For example, the constitution may require a certain number to form a quorum for a Board meeting. Failure to reach a quorum prevents the Board to meet and vote on any resolution.


The biggest concern is the reluctance of Board members to occupy statutory positions such as Treasurer or Secretary. This can lead to difficulties managing compliance to the requirements of the regulators like ASIC or ATO, which may place the organisation at risk of fines or other forms of litigation.


So how do you attract members to nominate as Board members?


Implementation of a Succession Plan is one method of ensuring continuity of Board members.  Succession planning is a part of the strategic planning process. This allows enthusiastic and qualified members to take up leadership roles after the incumbent board members finish their term.


Succession Planning is an essential element of Governance. However, recent research conducted by AES to identify best practice levels in Association Governance revealed that many associations did not have a formal Succession Plan in place. 


There are many steps that associations can take to assist in maintaining a Board of volunteers committed to the future of the association.


  • Include succession planning as part of your strategic plan and review the program annually
  • Implement volunteer working committees and identify potential Board Directors who demonstrate leadership and commitment
  • Invite potential Board Directors to attend as guests to Board meetings to witness proceedings
  • Provide a mentor to help potential Board members transcend to becoming Board Directors
  • Provide a complete induction program for all new Board Directors
  • Profile all Board members to the broader membership group, publish testimonials about their experience as a Board member of the Association


How to maintain a committed and successful Board


Once you have recruited good Board members, it is important to retain these key people for the long term.


Some tips include ensuring that the work of being on the Board feels valuable and doesn’t take up unnecessary time. This can include running Board meetings effectively, to make sure that everyone’s time and resources are respected. It can also mean encouraging productive discussion in which everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard and avoiding single voices from monopolising or excluding others.


Need assistance with your Board?


If you need help in developing your not-for-profit Board, we have the experience and resources available. AES’s Board Governance, Support and Development service provides a range of executive level assistance to support association Boards. This includes consulting, reviews, business health checks and more.


If you need help with Board members, call the friendly team at AES on +61 3 8393 9382.

About the Author: Nick Koerbin (Executive Director, AES)

With over 30 years of management expertise, Executive Director and Founder of AES, Nick Koerbin is one of the most experienced NFP leaders in Australia. He has held positions as the CEO of Materials Australia, theNational Parts Code, as well as senior positions in the Institute of Insurance, Australian Quality Council, the Financial Planning Association, the Australian Human Resources Institute, and the Furniture Industry Association of Australia. Nick created AES with a vision of creating a set of management practices that could be consistently followed to ensure success. Over his 30 years in the industry, he noticed that inconsistent management practices often impeded delivery of services to members, which in turn created issues with membership renewal. By establishing AES and creating the NFP Association Best Practice Self-Assessment, Nick has been able to assist leaders in becoming more confident and informed decision makers so that they can create more effective strategies and implementation plans.

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