Running an Effective and Engaged Election

by Marcel Bourdase, Associate Executive Director

One of the most important pieces to any organization is its leadership. The individuals selected to serve on the board of directors are charged with making the decisions that will lead an organization towards its mission, vision and accomplishing its goals. While experts will discuss many characteristics that make up an effective board, the process in most organizations begins with a call for nominations and a formal election.

Before beginning election process, it’s important to review the language in your bylaws to ensure you are in compliance. For the majority of organizations, the language in the bylaws is crafted with your best interest in mind. After consulting your bylaws, the election process typically begins with the selection and appointment of a nomination chair and a nomination committee. The nomination chair is often appointed by the current president or past president. The nomination committee outlines the entire election process from beginning to end while ensuring the process falls in line with your bylaws.

Organizations may use different approaches to reach out to prospective candidates. Some organizations send a call for nominations to interested parties outlining the election process requesting interested candidates to state their interest in serving as an officer. Other associations charge the nominating committee to solicit and recruit qualified individuals deemed to be an asset to the organization. Regardless of the technique, the more qualified individuals you have interested in serving your organization, the better off you’ll be.

Once the candidates have been nominated, vetted, confirmed and the ballot has been prepared, it’s time to start the formal election. Some elections are conducted during an Annual Meeting. Others elections are held through an online vote or a standard meeting. What matters most in any formal election process is that your voting participants receive enough notice and/or time in accordance with your bylaws or policies and procedures to cast their ballot. Once the voting has been tabulated, the nominations committee often works with the Secretary of the organization to verify and announce the newly elected officers.

If your bylaws and election process permits, try to notify all candidates prior to releasing the results publically. Whether you’re a small member organization or a public institution, running for office can a difficult process, especially when you finish with less votes than the other candidate. A personal phone call or email can go a long way towards keeping less fortunate candidates involved in your organization and helps keep the door open for future leadership possibilities.

While often overlooked, the nomination and election process solidifies the leadership of your organization and sets the direction for the years ahead. Take the time and make sure your organization identifies the right candidates in your organizations for both today and future leadership positions. In case, we forgot to mention this previously, don’t forget to review your bylaws.