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Association Management

5 Reasons Association Boards Fail

MemberClicks Blog Avatar MemberClicks Blog May 8, 2014
Table of Contents
3 min read

I recently came across an interesting blog from Steve Drake at SCD Group. He posted on his blog about an association board’s failure. Drake says the major issue was, “a board that doesn’t understand the organization and doesn’t seem to be able to look toward the future."

Drake goes on to say that the board didn’t know what the association actually did. They don’t, in Drake’s words, open the newsletters.

There are a lot of factors that can contribute to a board’s demise, and sometimes the association goes down with it. So what are they, and how can they be fixed or avoided?

shutterstock_118475194Problem: Disengaged board

Solution: As Drake mentioned, there is a leadership development and training issue here. And perhaps the board wasn’t well selected to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the board members are all capable and willing folks, but the board should be selected from a pool of engaged members. If you find yourself with a board that’s already disengaged, help them out. Spend a little time before meetings recapping what’s going on. Be sure minutes get out, and perhaps more meetings are a good idea to get the board refocused.

Problem: Disorganized board

Solution: First, if there’s not a clear meeting process, schedule, and leader establish them. Even if leadership duties are rotated, make sure that it's on the schedule and it’s clear who’s in charge of what and when. Secondly, think about how the meetings are run. Is there an agenda? Do you follow a recap/standing business/old business/new business format? That could be a move in the right direction if your board meets and seems to just be spinning its wheels.

Problem: Absentee board

Solution: Your board can’t solve any problems or make any decisions if it’s not there. The obvious answer here is follow up with board members and make sure they’re still interested in the position, but if that doesn’t yield any results it may be time to get a new board together. Board members know they aren’t showing up, and if there is any push back, objections or problems hold a meeting to address them! Board members are usually volunteers with full time jobs and sometimes life just gets too busy for that kind of time commitment.

Problem: Stagnant board 

Solution: Probably the biggest complaint I hear from small staff association leaders about their board is that is just meets and meets and chews on the same topics forever and doesn’t actually make any decisions. Find out what the root of the stagnation is. Meetings too infrequent? Waiting on information? Clash in personality? Once you know what’s causing the hold up, you can gently remind the board of the urgency of the matter and hopefully help them push through it! 

Problem: Contentious board

Solution: Unfortunately, another common complaint among small staff association leaders is that their board is tough to work with, or the board members don’t work well with each other. This is one of the toughest ones to handle because personalities come into play here. Dusting off some good old-fashioned conflict resolution techniques is probably the right move here, and be sure to hammer home that even though there’s conflict, there’s also a job to be done for your members!

Drake is presenting at ASAE 2014 with colleagues on this very subject. If you have anything to contribute to this topic, head over to his blog to help him out!

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