By Laura Wilkinson
Creating and sustaining a highly effective board of directors
is hard work and can at times be a frustrating, even elusive,
job for association professionals. Whether you work with a
board to raise money, lead change or develop a brand, getting
a dozen or more diverse individuals to convene and lead your
organization into the future is difficult.
And yet some organizations don’t seem to struggle. Their board
is committed and invested, efficient and effective. What’s their
secret and what can we learn from them?
I had the pleasure of discussing the challenges of board development with the CEOs of two associations in the Chicagoland
area: Thomas C. Dolan, Ph.D., FACHE, CAE, president and CEO
of the American College of Healthcare Executives in Chicago, and
Fred J. Fortman, JD, LL.M, CAE, executive director of the American Society of Safety Engineers in Des Plaines. Both shared their
game plan for developing, leading and sustaining a great board.
Getting Off to the Right Start — The
Fortman says “get the right people on your board and the rest
[of the plan] will work.”
There’s nothing more important in building your board than
making sure the right people are at the table. Your nominating
committee has a huge responsibility in making this happen.
This small group of individuals should be experienced in the
field of your constituency and intimately aware of the challenges
and opportunities facing your organization. For ACHE, the committee recommends a slate of nominees, one person for each
vacancy. ASSE holds contested elections, so its nominating
committee doesn’t feel their job is done until they present two
qualified candidates for each vacancy. [For more information
on choosing a nominating committee, see page 20]
Setting the Tone — Board Orientation
Just as you orient new employees to your organization and
their position, time and resources have to be devoted to getting
your board up to speed on their role and responsibilities.
Dolan’s senior staff participates in an internal orientation
with heads of departments speaking on the major functions of
the organization (membership, credentialing, education and
And both leaders rely on the American Society of Association Executives’ Symposium for Chief Staff Executives and Chief
Elected Officers to help them align their board with leadership