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March 6, 2013
By Beth Brooks, CAE

When the book Race for Relevance came out two years ago, one chapter in particular seemed to create a lot of discussion among association staff. That chapter dealt with “Overhauling the Governance Structure”. In that that section, the authors talked about the size of a Board of Directors, roles of board members, skills needed by the association, how much staff time is spent preparing for Board meetings, etc.

They purported we look at all these things and what is getting accomplished at board meetings, and ultimately suggested decreasing the size of the board. Instead, have a small, competency based board – perhaps six Board members. While that number is not a hard and fast number, the questions they raise are valid and well worth having a conversation with your board about governance structure.

Each month I hear concerns from members – they are having trouble finding people to serve on their board. Or they have members who refuse to get off the board and have served 10+ years. Or, younger people are not allowed to serve on the board.  All these concerns are indicators that your governance structure may not be working well. If these associations don’t change something, that association is going to lose relevance.

It is a wise association leader who encourages the board to take a good look at their governance structure and tackle these types of concerns. If you have not read Race for Relevance, by Harrison Coerver and Mary Byers, CAE, I highly suggest it. We have also run several articles based on the book (read the first one here) and will be running more with the release of their new sequel, Road to Relevance, this spring.

TSAE is currently going through a governance review. Our initial task force looked at our current board structure, the nomination process, the officers, and the duties of the board members. A tenet of the book Race for Relevance is to ensure that each board member knows why they are on the board and what their role is.  What skills does your board need?

Our “aha” moment was when we asked, “What is our current vision for TSAE? What skills from board members do we need to help us?” And frankly, the task force did not have a clear picture of where we wanted to go.  

You see, TSAE did a strategic plan 18 months ago and everything on that plan has now been completed. So, it is time to start that discussion again. We need to define where we want to be in a couple of years, which will help us determine what, if any changes, we want to make to our board structure. If the changes are big, they might warrant bylaws revisions and a vote by the membership.

Our board will begin this discussion at our April board meeting. The conversation alone will be interesting and insightful. We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

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