Association board trends

ASSOCIATION board governance has never been as challenging as it is today according to a study made by BoardEffect, a US-based solutions provider for nonprofit boards. This is amid lingering economic uncertainty, the need to accommodate millennials, and the ever-present challenge of recruiting and inspiring a diverse cast of new board members. Replicated below are four trends that experts see at this time and beyond, along with suggestions for addressing them.

Trend No. 1: Greater challenges in recruiting board members—Keeping boards populated with volunteer members who are a good fit is a never-ending quest. Busier lives and schedules, longer hours on the job, and perceived liability due to greater public scrutiny of boards, all these factors are pushing potential board members away from board service. There’s no one solution to the recruiting challenge, although boards that embrace social media to get the word out—as well as a good web site that clearly states a mission and interests—may help attract new members.

Trend No. 2: Fewer meetings, smaller boards, a drop in attendance—To every board leader who laments how hard it has become to keep board attendance at a high level, rest assured that the issue is widespread. Just as boards have gradually shrunk in size, the average number of meetings over a year has also dropped. With that drop has come a worrisome decline in board attendance. Low meeting attendance creates greater risk for the organization as it increases the likelihood of major decisions being made by a minority of board members. In some cases, the solution to poor attendance can be better use of technology to close the gaps. Technology can streamline meetings by allowing members to better prepare ahead of time, paving the way for more well-informed discussion, reduce meeting length, and hold online discussions and “virtual” votes.

Trend No. 3: Millennials will continue to change charitable giving —As the millennial generation comes of age, its motivations for giving to charitable causes and for serving on boards needs additional study. With around 80 million millennials coming of age, knowing how they spend their cash on causes is going to be critical for nonprofits. That means that boards need to embrace new ways of approaching charitable giving. Expert and futurist Amy Webb recommends against using the word “donation” and instead, using “investment,” which has a different connotation. Although millennials turn to social media and digital means for involvement, in either case, a personal connection tends to influence both volunteer time and giving.

Trend No. 4: Continued focus on diversity—Even as the pool of potential board members in a community seems to be shrinking, board leadership continues to struggle with making boards more diverse in many cases without much progress. As boards continue to shrink in size, every individual counts. It, thus, becomes even more imperative to ensure that the board is made up of a cross-section of its community. “Board recruitment should be a continuous and deliberate activity of the full board,” a BoardSource report states. The effort, the report states, should be “led by a governance committee that is responsible for ensuring that the board has the right people, structure, guidelines  and resources.”


The column contributor, Octavio “Bobby” Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (Adfiap) and the CEO and founder of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE). PCAAE is holding a mini-conference on Branding, Public Relations and Communications on July 4, 2018, at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). The event is supported by Adfiap, the Tourism Promotions Board, the PICC, Springtime Design, International PR Association and Writers Edge. 

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