The Strauss Blog

The More You Know: How to Better Support the Board with Greater Association Knowledge

Everyone has room to grow when it comes to learning more about their workplace and environment. While some people may choose to get by with minimal knowledge of their surroundings, it is my belief that one should not simply be aware and attempt to get by, but instead, truly grasp and understand what it is they are doing forty hours of the week.

In association management, this is no different. Whether you are an event manager, accounting manager, or even executive director – there are many areas where you can learn and improve. Take, for instance, the position of supporting the board of directors of the association. This typically involves attending meetings, taking meeting minutes, and coordinating correspondence among directors. These are essential tasks needed to successfully assist the board, but what if I told you there are ways you could be doing this better?

Have you ever wondered what you could do to better support the board? This is something I ask myself regularly. That is why I would like to introduce to you the idea that, by familiarizing yourself with a broader scope of the association, you are enhancing your ability to assist the board of directors. I have chosen to share with you three areas that you should learn more about: current projects, committees, and board and meeting timelines.

Association Board Projects

The board is busy all year long working with projects, big and small. Some may span a few years, while others may only take a week. No matter the project, it is important to familiarize yourself with the background and basic principles of each project. This will prove to be especially important when you are distributing project documents to accompany the agenda for a board meeting. Visit another blog of mine, Preparing for Association Board Meetings, for more insight on sending key documents. When board members receive the agenda a week before the meeting, there are often many other attachments that come with it. This assortment of information can be daunting, not only for directors, but for you as well. Take the time to carefully read through the meeting files as you may receive questions from board members. This will also make discussions during board meetings a lot easier.

To take it a step further, take notice of the latest in industry news to learn what is happening in the profession today. This could involve regularly reading the association’s weekly newsletter, visiting new corners of the association’s website, or pausing to pay attention to the developments in the field you may see on the six o’clock news. You will notice that the projects will become more relevant and thus making it easier for you to assist the board.

Association Board Committees

Think of every committee as a miniature board of directors. While their overall mission is the same, committees strive to work on specific tasks to achieve association goals. One committee might be working to increase social media presence, while others are engaging in marketing campaigns. By getting to know each committee objective, you are allowing yourself to be better prepared to help. There will be times when a committee will come to you to ask for assistance with a project. Be ready to respond with confidence and efficiency by understanding exactly what they require. Similarly, if you come across an article or another pertinent piece of information, you can send it to the committee chair. As you can see, by getting to know each committee, you are facilitating their workload and the board will be able to cross things of their list.

Association Board Timelines

There are a couple important timelines that you should always be on top of. One of these timelines has to do with board member terms. That is, keeping track of the length of time each director has served on the board and whether they are in a position of re-election. Some associations require their board members to be re-elected each year, while others may be every three years. No matter the length, create a chart that indicates when they first joined the board, when their term is up, and if they have a new role in their next term (i.e. treasurer, president, or past-president).

Another timeline to pay special attention to is the one leading up to the annual general meeting of members (AGM). There are crucial items that need to be distributed to the membership with a very specific schedule. For instance, the Notice of AGM must be delivered at least 21 days before the meeting. This notice also includes the announcement of members up for election. That is why, prior to sending the notice, the Call for Nominations must be distributed first. If the Call for Nominations is not sent out, then acquiring new board members would be difficult. For more on the AGM timeline, read Key Timing Milestones under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act. Keep a copy of these important dates at your desk so that you can remind the board of their involvement to ensure that all notices and documents are released on time.

As you can see, learning more about these three areas will greatly improve how well you can assist the board of directors. Whether you are just starting out in this new role or are a seasoned veteran, you will realize that you feel more comfortable in your position by soaking up more of what it is that makes the association run smoothly. When traveling for a meeting or even during the last few minutes of your lunch break, you may also want to try reading through the by-laws, strategic plan or past meeting minutes to learn even more. The more you know, the better you will be.