How to Draft Your Association Board Like the NFL Pros

Professional football is fun to watch. But for the players and the coaches, it’s more than a game, it is serious business that requires a certain array of skills. When it comes to Draft Day, coaches and management seek to create the ultimate dream team. For associations, it’s no different. By filling your board with members who possess the critical skills for success, there’s no limit to how much your organization can achieve.

Whether seeking a quarterback, defensive lineman or a kicker, teams seek a certain combination of skills: passion, commitment, drive, agility, consistency and reliability are but a few. The goal is to ultimately create a gridiron dream team, one that will rule the field with the dominance of a well-oiled machine. Whether it being able to perform under pressure or to have a diverse bank of thoughts and ideas present, drafting your board is one of the pivotal elements to an association’s development and success.

The first question to ask is ‘Does this person want the position?’ Is someone raising their hand to join the board because they feel obligated or because it will look good on their resume? Not that those are bad reasons, but the member should also be passionate about the organization and be willing to give their time, energy and commitment. No one has ever stepped down from a volunteer board and said, “Whew that was easy.” It’s going to be hard work. It will take people away from their job, from their family, from their hobbies. Make sure the person understands the commitment and has the drive to embrace it.

When it comes to football, coaches want their players to be agile — able to bob and weave down the field, avoid being tackled and get the football into the end zone. That agility is no less critical when it comes to serving on a board. You want people who can wear multiple hats, manage and execute multiple tasks, work with different personalities and, ultimately, get things done.

You also need to know on whom you can rely. Those who show up for practice, follow the training regimen and listen to their coaches. Reliability is key for board members. But there’s added pressure, because board duties are often in addition to members’ full time, paid jobs and that thing called “life.” Yet, it’s still critical for board members to call into meetings, show up for in-person discussions and follow up on assignments between meetings. If board members don’t show up, it can drag the entire team down and slow the team’s progress.

For a ball player, consistency is the holy grail. Every coach wants a player who will perform the same or better each and every time he’s on the field. The same is true for board members. Someone who attends the first meeting and comes up with a stellar idea is fantastic, but what happens if that person never attends another meeting? What about board members who suddenly don’t have time to put to required tasks outside of meetings? You need people to bring the same effort, dedication, and enthusiasm to every meeting and every task that’s put before them. When you put in consistent effort, others notice, admire it and try to emulate it.

Managing stress. Like it or not, it’s a part of life. The key is figuring out how to handle that stress and use it to your advantage. Need to come up with a conference theme in two hours? Sure, that’s stressful. The key is recognizing that pressure can provide the motivation you need to start throwing out as many ideas as possible. Lo and behold, 50 terrible ideas can sometimes be followed by that one stroke of brilliance for which you’ve been searching. Being able to perform under pressure helps every team achieve its goals. When a player succumbs to stress, it can lead to inaction, missed opportunities, or worse, serious mistakes.

Think Different Thoughts. On the football field, that means having a roster filled with players of different skills, skill levels and years of experience. On a board, it means having a range of experiences, skills, industries, and age. Diversity of thought, age and experience will ensure that your board members challenge each other and work together to bring forward new ideas that will only benefit the larger association.

When it comes to selecting your next board of directors, selections based on particular criteria will only benefit your organization. When you scout new talent, do you keep your top key attributes in mind?

If you would like to leverage CMA’s experience in helping your association maximize effectiveness, we’d love to chat. Please contact CMA Association Management at 800-852-4269 or email us at

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