Here’s an uncomfortably familiar scenario. In the time leading up to board elections, directors are scrambling to find people to run for the board. A bit of panic ensues: Will there be enough interest from the membership? Will the candidates that run be qualified? Has there been enough time to ensure candidates know what being on the board is all about? Does the board know what kind of directors it needs or wants?
At the Three Rivers Market in Knoxville, Tenn,. their board had discussed changing that hurry-up-and-find- somebody dynamic for years, but when they found themselves with open slots after a couple of resignations, they knew they needed to change their approach.
Last year the board implemented an ongoing plan to encourage members to consider board service. Jim Hagerman, the board chair, said that it included developing criteria and brainstorming a list of 50 people from those who had expressed interest, as well as those they thought might have something to contribute. Over the course of the year, they reached out to those people, not only to plant the idea of running for the board, but to encourage their involvement in their areas of interest. For example, if they had a speaker come to the board to talk about local agriculture, they would invite people from their list who they thought might like to attend. “We attend to a core group of people that we are grooming by keeping them in the loop,” he said.
Additionally, they built board recruitment activities into their annual board calendar. “It’s also important to ask people to take an active part, even if they are not on the board,” Hagerman said. “Basically we just flat out gave it some thought, and decided not trust to chance who would be on our board. It has really improved our pool of candidates. After this past year’s election we now have the strongest board we’ve ever had.” His advice to other board members is “just get started” and figure out how to work it into the board’s routine. “We got good immediate results from it, but we’re hoping that it will also show us long term benefits.”
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