Association Board Advice: 3 Rules for Strategic Service and Less Stress

Best Practices : Article

Association Board Advice 2Some would say I’m a glutton for punishment. Others would say I must have some kind of a PowerPoint fetish. A small handful think I’m trying to do something good. But whatever the motivation, the reality is the same: in addition to attending dozens of monthly association Board meetings for Virtual’s clients, when the day is done I sit on several Boards myself.

I’ll admit, finding time to do it all is tricky. How do you balance the responsibilities of your day job with your obligation as a Board member? There’s no magic answer, but here are a few rules that have worked for me:

Know your limits.

For better or worse, I recently dropped off one Board I had served on for five years. I still support the mission, but another Board with which I was involved had asked me to take on a larger role. And I knew there was no way I could do it all. When you’re not able to fully commit, stepping away is the only fair answer—for you, for the organization, and for those who may be waiting in the wings for a Board seat to open up.


Do the right thing.

I’ve blogged quite a bit about the role of the Board. A surefire way to find yourself overloaded is to get involved with tactics and hands-on execution. Let the association’s staff, association management company, or other volunteers do their jobs. Keep your attention at the strategic level. Strategic thinking is the most critical role a Board can play.

Engage your employer.

Be sure your employer is aware of the organizations you’re involved with—and sees the benefit of your involvement. Sometimes that benefit is direct, as with a professional society that relates to your occupation. Sometimes, though, you’ll need to help your employer understand that association Board involvement is part of your broader professional development. Whatever the case, it’s critical that you have your company’s support. You shouldn’t feel like you’re “sneaking around” if you need to attend a Board call or answer an email between 9 and 5.

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