Voting in board of directors elections is a real chore, isn’t it? All you get to go on is a bio and a statement, and from that you’re supposed to make an informed choice?
Here’s the criteria I use when voting in contested board elections.
- Does the candidate have a history of devoting time to the cause? Board service requires time. If a candidate does not have a history of volunteering, they might not have the time to be a board member. The more time a candidate has, or has evidence of creating, the more time the candidate can spend in service of the mission.
- Does the candidate have a network they bring with them to the board? One of the roles of the board is to help the organization succeed. Strong networks are very useful when one-off specialized knowledge is needed, or when needing favors. For example, financial oversight requires access to accountants, lawyers who specialize in non-profit structures, auditors, and investment specialists. Having strong political connections is also very useful. A strong board network is a tremendous asset to the executive director.
- Does the candidate bring some specialized skill or knowledge to the board? Cascade’s board has a couple of philanthropists, a couple very senior managers who oversee very large organizations, a couple of lawyers, a couple of intense cycling activists, one person with a long volunteer history with the club, a developer, and other various backgrounds that make for a diverse board.
- Does the candidate have board experience? Boards are strange beasts that find it way too easy to be looking at the small picture instead of the big picture. To a certain degree, the board that governs least, governs best. Strong board leadership can make sure the board operates at the strategic level and performs its oversight functions, but having members who have already internalized this makes leadership’s role that much easier.
- Does the candidate bring a perspective that represents my interests? The club has many parts: advocacy, events, event rides, daily rides, and education. You should make sure that there is a least one board member who will champion the programs you are interested in. “Champion” doesn’t mean “manage,” for staff is responsible for management, it means argues for the value of the program and can help set high level outcomes for the program.
So as you read the candidate statements, try viewing them through the lens above.
In doing so, you’ll notice that I have a history of volunteering, have bring a network of environmental and philanthropic leaders with me to the board, bring board leadership, strong technological knowledge (and a deep commitment to addressing climate change) with me as my skills, and have a ton of board experience. Although I stress advocacy in my statement, I’ve been on the board long enough to know that every program is important, and that they are synergistic. My goal is a unified club where all programs support each other to more effectively and efficiently achieve our mission.