• Shayne Leslie

Educating Members - Board Succession Strategies

A question often comes my way as to how to attract the next generation of board members to continue the good work. While last week I discussed some broad board succession strategies, this post discusses educating members.

On average, around 2-4% of membership turns up to the AGM and votes. A board succession education program is targeting an even smaller group of about 0.2% of the membership in its first year.

However, a board succession education program is about building capacity moving into the future. The program probably won’t see significant results until the 5th year. The education program asks the serious question; in five years’ time, who do you need on the board?

When putting together a board succession education program, there are 3 factors to consider;

  1. Governance hygiene

  2. Targets

  3. Communication strategy & resources

Governance Hygiene

Governance hygiene is not about the tidiness of the boardroom or deodorant, although there is an argument for that.

Firstly, it is a simple case of arithmetic. To attract new board members, some current board members have to go. Step 1 of governance hygiene is having a yearly discussion as part of the annual decision making calendar on which board members want to stay and who is ready to go.

People are too busy to join a board that is ‘old school’. Working mutually with a succession plan needs to be a transformative governance program that understands the quality of your board’s principal tasks; strategy, policy, monitoring and evaluation and leadership, usually through an external board evaluation. Those who want to stay must be committed to a transformation program. Exit strategies for those who do not embrace change should be discussed as a group.

Governance hygiene also considers underlying motivations and culture of the board. Exposing and dealing with the unconscious assumptions and biases that hold the board back will go a long way to create an environment that is progressive and be attractive to qualified people. Discuss the board’s commitment to diversity and the belief it will improve your organisation’s ability to make good decisions. The board’s commitment will be reflected in the qualified people who respond to your program.


For the first few years of your education program, there will be lots of tapping on shoulders and pitching to individual people. When pitching for potential board members, the governance hygiene process undertaken in Step 1 should provide the guidelines to the ideal skills and leadership style of your targets. You may not necessarily need someone who is ‘just like you’. Your board may need someone quite different to promote diversity and difference.

A great place to start tapping on the shoulder is with people who are already involved in boards or committees. Many clubs have a ready-to-go list of organisations to which they donate either money or meeting rooms. Start networking here. Offer a free governance education program with an information night built in and solicit potential board members. Women will require a lot more face to face encouragement.

It is also important to note that Generation X are more likely to be looking for fulfilling roles that add value to their careers. They want technology, e-driven communications and decision making, flexibility and strategic focus. Many Gen-X and some Gen-Y are looking for volunteering that builds their resume and opens networking opportunities.

Communication Strategy & Resources

As with any strategy, communication needs to achieve an objective and be appropriately resourced. It will be a long game, so set measures intelligently.

Communication will break down barriers of understanding. For example, did you know that many members believe the board of directors of a registered club either get paid very well or share in the profits on the club? This comes from corporate directors who DO get paid or share in the profits.

Over the year, your education program may be communicated in small monthly topics. For example;

  • Regular news on organisational strategic outcomes to build interest and a strategic story

  • Profile skills and backgrounds of current members who embody the ideal (or close to the ideal)

  • Offer of a free governance program to those already involved in committee and board volunteering

  • Six months out ask the question of your members; “Do you want to join our board?”

Create a nomination pack including details on director training, required time commitment, networking opportunities and a basic skills test.

Remember that for the size on the initial investment for a board succession education program, the payback period may be long. With the changes in the labour force in the next 15 years, specifically the increasing retirement age (to 70), it will become more competitive to attract board members who can navigate the difficult funding changes and lifestyle choices of the market.

Best to start now.

Contact us for more information at shayne@integratedgovernance.com.au.

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