An onboarding plan prepares Solarity’s nonvoting associate directors for election to the full board. The credit union assigns a “board buddy” to guide associate directors as they attend asset/liability committee (ALCO) meetings, board meetings, and social events.
Director and associate director scorecards keep track of training programs that are customized with each directors’ input. Education occurs during meetings, financial literacy courses, conferences, and CUNA’s Volunteer Achievement Program.
This approach worked well for Harris, an educator who appreciated having a year “just to learn” and ask “dumb questions” that sometimes revealed that more experienced directors also needed the answers.
Attending conferences side by side with other directors allowed her to discuss the coursework with them afterward. Taking part in social gatherings together eased those conversations.
“I was drinking from a fire hydrant the first year,” Harris said. “I’ve taken advantage of everything that I could.”
Solarity’s scorecard offered “gentle accountability” that reminded Harris she needed to attend more ALCO meetings, which are recorded to accommodate scheduling conflicts. Support from other directors and the executive team kept her focused on being ready to serve.
Attending the strategic retreat led by an outside facilitator prepared her to tackle tough issues.
“That boosted my own training and feeling of confidence,” Harris says.
Changing patterns in volunteer experience and longevity impact board development. When a 50-year director resigned in 2020 at $263 million asset First Alliance Credit Union, Stewartville, Minn., the average tenure for its seven directors dropped from 12 years to five, says President/CEO Michael Rosek.
First Alliance hired a consultant to find the right equation for its board succession plan that now guides director recruitment and development. The consultant polled current directors to learn their expected board tenure and the type of expertise they wanted new directors to have to enhance board performance.
“We asked, ‘What’s the ideal makeup of a board?’” Rosek says.
That input, combined with a commitment to diversity, shapes board recruitment. The goal, he says, is to be intentional at every step as First Alliance recruits “lifelong learners” and allows them to acquire the knowledge needed to be effective directors.
First Alliance added a nonvoting associate director position to the board to give the “next” director a head start through attending meetings and participating in advocacy and education. A written program guides ongoing board development, which relies on educational resources offered through the Minnesota Credit Union Network, CUNA, and other resources.
Rosek notes it’s important to further the professional development of the executive administrator who coordinates board meetings and supports directors’ development. Attending a CUNA conference for board liaisons and tapping other resources prepared the executive administrator to offer solutions when the pandemic limited face-to-face interaction.
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