When potential members look at your board of directors, do they see themselves represented? Today’s workforce looks quite different than it did just a few years ago. Most associations want to foster a diverse membership that reflects the makeup of the professionals in their industries. It’s a key strategic goal.

Unfortunately, the answer is often no. Boards frequently have blind spots when it comes to their own ranks. It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance and recruit your peers. Diversity goals are easy to set but hard to realize if you don’t know where to start. But, it’s important that the people making decisions about the direction of your association mirror the membership you want.

Why is diversity important?

A diverse board with members representing a variety of age groups, ethnicities, genders and life experiences is better able to address the needs of the entire membership. By tapping the voices of everyone the association represents, you’re better suited to make informed and effective long-term decisions.

With more voices at the table, you could discover something as simple as members with less than five years’ experience do not read mass emails and prefer to get updates via Instagram. Or you may uncover bigger picture issues such as the need to rethink continuing education programs to better address the needs of members in less populated areas.

Changing demographics

The pool from which your membership will grow is made up of millennials and the coming Generation Z. Let’s face it, they have different expectations and priorities for what an association should do to support professional development and the health of their industry. By incorporating representatives from a variety of generations you’ll be able to balance the current needs with a future strategy and voice.

Tips to recruit a diverse board

  1. Understand your members and prospects – Look at the demographic information ab
  2. out members stored in your Association Management System. You can analyze and segment your membership rolls to create a picture of the various groups represented. Then, incorporate your diversity goals for where you’d like your membership to be in 2, 5 and 10 years.
  3. Compare membership profile to board representation – How does your board stack up to the groups identified in your membership? As terms expire, what goals can you reasonably set for whom you want on the board?
  4. Set goals for the leadership team – Communicate your goals to the association’s leadership team. Staff should understand the importance of building a good bench. Task them to cultivate up-and-coming leaders.
  5. Look for selfidentified leaders – Who from your current membership is submitting interesting speaking proposals or volunteering? Identify a staff member to “scout” the membership for talent. Always have opportunities to sign-up for association activities on-line and at events, then follow-up.
  6. Make it easy to participate – Invite board prospects to get their feet wet by participating on a task force with a specific goal and end date.
  7. Recruit individuals – Don’t wait for a good prospect to volunteer. Let them know they have been tapped for a project based on their interests and abilities. “I heard you raise this issue in the past. I’d like you to participate in this discussion in a series of three conference calls where we’ll make a decision about how to move forward.”
  8. Explain the benefits – Help potential leaders understand what their participation and input means to the association and as a way to broaden their professional experience.

By following these eight tips, you will find engaged members ready to cultivate their leadership skills and provide valuable insights about what your association can do to address the needs of all members, now and in the future.