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Boards know they must have a plan to fill a vacancy in the CEO office. But they also need to plan to fill empty seats on the board.
“As we think about the need for new, vibrant volunteers, we must recognize that we don’t know where the next great volunteer is going to come from,” says David Reed, partner at Reed & Jolly PLLC. “We need to think about this strategically.”
A board succession plan should not revolve solely around nominating those individuals whose seats are up for election, says Reed, who spoke at the CUNA Credit Union Board Accelerator Virtual Conference.
“Nominating incumbents is fine. It happens all the time and is probably the right decision the vast majority of the time,” Reed says. “But if your success plan is built on the assumption that every person who is eligible for nomination is nominated every time, where’s the plan?”
To find the “next great volunteer,” Reed says boards must “throw the net out to as many potential volunteers as possible to bring them in.”
Don’t rely on one source to identify and select volunteers. While the board should seek out potential new recruits the CEO, nominating committee, management, and other board members identify, also put out the call for volunteers in the credit union’s newsletter, videos, posters, or community newspapers.
During the recruitment process, be transparent about what time commitments are expected for meetings, preparation, training, and planning, and address the issue of liability.
Remember, volunteers can serve the credit union without serving on the board, Reed says. Consider an associate board program, the supervisory committee, or other board committees to both educate candidates about the credit union and board service and allow the board to observe potential board members when considering future vacancies.
If turnover is low but the board wants to address diversity and inclusion or add new personalities or viewpoints, it can look at the credit union’s bylaws and other governance documents to see if there are “out of the box solutions” to change key components—such as size, how elections are held, and the nomination process—to match the board’s needs.
“Consider your succession planning now,” Reed says. “It’s not going to get better over time.”
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