Emily Rabbitt is manager, research content and knowledge resources, for the ASAE Foundation.
ASAE Foundation research on governance shows that getting the right people into leadership roles is a critical need. Board selection processes should be designed with this goal in mind.
The ASAE Foundation’s body of research on governance offers insight into effective practices in board leadership. One common theme is that good governance requires having the right people on the board—specifically, a group of individuals who, together, comprise the competencies required to lead their association. Research shows that an effective recruitment and selection process for board members is a significant contributor to board success.
ASAE Foundation research has found that association boards are most effective when nomination processes identify the best candidates and when members are selected based on their qualifications, skills, and experiences. These essential duties are commonly carried out by a nominating committee.
Seventy percent of respondents in research for What Makes High-Performing Boards reported using some form of nominating committee, and 77 percent conducted some type of candidate-screening process. Advance findings from the “Board Member Competencies and Selection” study emphasize the importance of a nominating committee that is empowered to recruit and select candidates.
70% Percentage of associations that use a nominating committee for board selection
The study also found that creating a competency-based board is critical to board performance. But different competencies are needed in different organizations. Each organization that participated in the study defined competencies differently according to its own needs, though many gravitated toward competencies like team orientation, interpersonal skills, leadership skills, technical knowledge and expertise, and personal attributes.
Effective nominating committees highlighted in the study determined the competencies their boards needed, and then created specific job descriptions based on those competencies to recruit board candidates. These committees then used a candidate-evaluation system based on the competencies.
Changing to a competency-based board recruitment and selection model may be a significant shift for some organizations, but many leaders have found the effort worthwhile. Some study participants reported that the catalysts for this change were board members themselves.
No matter how the process starts, it’s important for association leaders to maintain the momentum. The pace of change may be slower in some organizations than others, depending on size, industry, culture, and other factors. Mapping out the planned changes helps to garner stakeholder buy-in. Association executives can help their volunteer leaders understand the advantages of a competency-based board selection and nomination process and guide them through the development of their own effective process.