Tony Hoff is the marketing manager for Survey & Ballot Systems in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.
When the calendar turns to your association’s board elections, make sure it’s a process that maximizes member engagement. Here are four questions every association leader should ask before it’s time to cast a ballot.
Associations focus on a variety of causes and interests, but one thing most organizations have in common is governance by an elected board. Frequently that process involves a member voting period, which can be stressful. All association leaders want their members to vote in board elections, but many organizations suffer from low voter turnout.
To get members voting, you need to engage them long before it’s time to cast a vote. The first phase is to identify potential candidates within the nomination process. The second phase comes once the slate of candidates is set. Finally, you’ll want to encourage participation and voting options that work best for your members.
Board elections can be an excellent member engagement moment, but first, you must address the following questions.
1. How do I identify potential candidates? Current members and volunteers can help to identify future leaders. Each executive position will, of course, come with its own set of skills and requirements, but there are also general qualities that can be shared with your member community to identify qualified candidates. Putting out a call for nominees is a good initial step, but you’ll also want to outline some of the skills you’re looking for in a nominee. These general qualities might include
2. Are nomination and voting processes easily accessible? To become part of your organization’s leadership team, you need to nominate your candidates. The easier you make this process, the more likely it will be that members participate. Utilizing an online candidate application system is a great start. Also, look for online tools that allow for third-party nominations or self-nominations. Once you have a system in place, be sure to promote your call for nominees—social media and targeted emails can be a great way to spread the word.
Some members may prefer to vote by mail, while some others may prefer online voting—especially from a mobile device. If your association isn’t offering multiple ways to vote, including an online option, you could be missing out on a large portion of your membership.
To increase voter participation, the two keys are to know your audience and give them choices. Too many organizations offer only limited voting options to their members. When you know your member well, you can offer multiple platforms for casting votes.
Some members may prefer to vote by mail, while others may opt for online voting—especially from a mobile device. If your association isn’t offering multiple ways to vote, including an online option, you could be missing out on a large portion of your membership.
3. Is voting safe and secure? This is the number one question associations have about member voting, especially online voting, and it’s for good reason. These days, data breaches are a common occurrence. Your voting website should be hosted in a secure-server environment, and online ballots must be transmitted using transport-layer security (TSL) encryption. Voting websites should also only be accessible by log-in accounts of authorized members. Password protected log-ins can safeguard against duplicate voting. Passive and active network and security monitoring services should also be used to prevent any unauthorized access.
4. Is online voting cost effective? When you give members the opportunity to cast their ballots online, you remove many of the barriers and excuses that can affect low turnout. Online voting can also help your association’s bottom line by removing expenses such as printing, postage, staff assembly, and tabulation. When considering a switch to online, perform a cost-benefit analysis. Online-only elections may be able to produce better results, but it has to be the right fit for your members, staff, and volunteers.