Votenet’s get-out-the-vote expert and University of Florida political scientist Charles Dahan joined me last Tuesday for the first webinar in our Summer Candidate Series. We’re focusing on candidates this summer because, after increasing voter turnout, recruiting qualified candidates is the number two election challenge for associations, according to our most recent benchmark survey.
Remove the common obstacles to leadership.
There are two common reasons why people don’t consider putting their name in for a leadership position.
- No one asked them.
- Too much uncertainty surrounds the position.
Often, the only reason a member hasn’t express interest in a leadership position is because no one asked them. ASAE’s Decision to Volunteer study found that a personal invitation was the most effective way to recruit a volunteer. The same is true for recruiting leaders. Reach out to the members whom you’ve identified as leadership material. A personal call from a member who’s served in a leadership position followed up by a call from someone on staff might be just what’s needed to put them on the path to leadership.
You also have to reduce friction and remove any pain points surrounding the leadership nomination process. If a member doesn’t have a clear understanding of the requirements and responsibilities of leaders in your organization, it’s very unlikely he or she will pursue or accept a nomination.
Most of us have some degree of fear of the unknown or aversion to risk. If we’re uncertain about the consequences of an action, we’re not likely to take that action. In a study on ballot initiatives, researchers found that if there’s a lack of clarity about the proposition or referendum, people tend to vote No.
Remove the possibility of No by providing comprehensive information about leadership positions, perhaps in a FAQ. Ask members who are serving or who have recently served in leadership positions to explain in a video what it’s like to serve. What misperceptions did they have about the position? How have they been pleasantly surprised by their position? How has it benefitted them personally and professionally?
If you’ve asked members to run for office and they’ve declined, find out why. What you can learn from their answers? How can your organization overcome those obstacles?
In the last post, I suggested sending out a “trust” survey to members to find out whom they respect, whom they would go to for advice, and whom they would trust with the leadership of their organization. People naturally don’t want to let others down when they know people are counting on them. When you approach members on the “trust” list about taking on a leadership role, be sure to emphasize the endorsements they received from their colleagues and peers.
Diversity increases voter turnout and member trust.
Competitive elections with a diverse slate of candidates increase voter interest and turnout. If a voter doesn’t believe there’s any difference between the candidates, there’s no reason to vote – the payoff is zero.
More importantly, boards that are made up of members with a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives have more productive discussions, entertain more new ideas and make better decisions. Numerous studies have shown that diverse boards also make more money — profits increase when the number of women on corporate boards increase.
A board that reflects the entire membership leads to increased participation in and loyalty to the organization. A diverse board builds social capital – trust.
Diversity is contagious. For example, when one woman runs for office, more women will follow her example in the next election. A larger and more diverse pool of candidates helps to build interest in leadership and elections, and leads to a more vibrant and healthy organization.
If the members whom you identify and target for recruitment choose not to take on a leadership role, ask them to get involved in another way. You’ve put the leadership bug into their head and can begin building your leadership bench for future elections.
Save the dates for the next two webinars in our Summer Candidate Series.
- Secrets to Successful Candidate Communication on Tuesday, August 26 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern
- Present Your Candidates Fairly & Favorably to Voters on Thursday, September 4 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern