One of the topics that I speak about at credit union conferences and conventions is Building a Better Board. In these programs a lot of time is spent discussing how to build volunteer capacity, which inevitably surfaces the question of how to attract new Board members.
When the subject is pursued further, a self-defeating belief almost always emerges: the people in the room don’t believe that there are people in their membership who are willing to step up and commit to serving in the way that they have served.
I refer to this as a self-defeating belief, because if you really don’t believe you can find something, then you are unlikely to invest much energy in searching for it. The result, in this case, being that because there is a shared belief that there are no good candidates out there to be found, the search doesn’t succeed.
But there is a deeper issue at work here…
The fact is that when Board members look for replacements, they tend to look for people who are just like them in terms of knowledge, skills, and experiences. It is logical; in fact it would be hard to do anything else. After all, we each have a personal sphere of influence of about 250 people and when we are asked to find people willing to serve, we are most likely going to look within that sphere of influence. And when we do, sometimes we find great candidates who are willing to serve, but who get turned off when they learn about the roles and responsibilities of a Board member.
Think about it. When someone is approached and asked if they would be interested in serving on the Board, their first question is usually something like “What does it entail?” or the more direct “How much time does it require?”
The person sharing the opportunity usually responds with a litany of the duties and responsibilities, including the monthly meetings, the committee service, the special assignments, and so forth. Perhaps they even note the fiduciary nature of the relationship and the importance of making a long-term commitment to ensure the continued success of the credit union.
What’s missing from this response?
The very thing that might change the perspective of the person being recruited: the delineation of the benefits of Board service…not to the credit union, but to the Board member.
After all, though Board members give a great deal to the credit union through their service, they also gain a great deal of knowledge about running a business, increase their understanding of the financial services industry, build valuable friendships and business relationships, expand their base of experience, and gain the satisfaction of helping to build an organization that serves its members…all of which can be leveraged in their personal and professional lives. These benefits are much more valuable and appealing than the features of long hours, weekends sacrificed to conferences and planning sessions, and the long-term commitment of time and energy to a volunteer activity.
Since we know that people buy benefits, not features, and we know that the process of recruiting Board members is essentially a sales process, perhaps we should focus our recruiting efforts on selling the benefits of Board service instead of the features. Chances are we’ll be more successful and find better people…ones who are committed to personal and professional growth who see the opportunity for what it really is because they really understand the value of having a seat at the table.