The nominations committee of the Friendly City Food Co-op in Harrisonburg, Va. has been meeting since January to get a head start on the board nominations process. In addition to finding excellent candidates and improving the voting process, the co-op also wants to ensure it has contested elections. “Each year we are trying to be more proactive,” said Laura Toni-Holsinger, the board president. “I think it’s important to take incremental steps.” Friendly City is a startup that opened in 2011, and she’s seen the needs of the board evolve from a hands-on founding group, to one that transitioned to opening the co-op, and now involves sustaining governance.
Their planning has involved targeted outreach as well as broader member engagement. They’ve created a nominations packet for prospects that includes information about the board job description, policy governance and conflict of interest policies. The board has also discussed character traits they would like to see on the board. Individual board members will be making personal contact with those people over the next few months. Additionally, the board is tabling in the store to talk to people about membership in general, as well as running for the board. “Whether or not someone can consider running for the board, it’s still an opportunity to engage with them,” Toni-Holsinger said.
In preparation for the board election in October, they are also exploring electronic voting. “Each year we get more sophisticated in our approach,” she said. Excitement about the co-op since it’s been open has been palpable, and the nominations committee sees that as an advantage. “There’s so much work that went on to prepare for our co-op’s opening, and it is super exciting to shop there. It’s great to be able to build on that.”