The board of directors is the administrative and policymaking team for the League. Board members often assume specific duties, but all members of the board are responsible for planning and decision-making in several broad interdependent areas:
- Organization and Management: membership growth and participation; adequate financing and realistic budgeting; internal/external communications; visibility; and efficient administrative operations.
- Voter Service/Citizen information
- Program: study, consensus, advocacy
The board as a whole:
- Sets priorities and goals for the organization.
- Carries out overall planning and decision-making..
- Supports membership, development and visibility activities.
- Represents and promotes the League in the community.
- Safeguards the League’s reputation for nonpartisanship.
- Leads the League.
- Speaks for the League.
- Empowers and trains League leaders.
- Organizes and delegates League tasks.
- Convenes and presides over meetings.
Individual board members:
- Attend and participate in all board meetings.
- Identify and mentor new leaders.
- Promote growth and diversity in membership.
- Support and attend League activities.
- Become knowledgeable about League positions and practices.
- Explain and promote the League in the community.
- Understand and abide by the League’s nonpartisan policy.
- Assist in fundraising activities.
- Make personal financial contributions, in addition to dues.
- Attend state and regional League meetings.
- Carry out individual assignments.
Organization of the Board
Leagues operate under a variety of board structures. Many League boards assign specific portfolios or areas of focus (e.g., membership, development, communications, advocacy, voter services, etc.) to their members, while others have established three or four committees organized around priorities identified by the board. Some Leagues have created the position of president-elect to provide an automatic succession mechanism.
Establishing co-presidents or leadership teams is also a way Leagues are organizing themselves to share the duties of the president. It is important, however, for co-presidents or leadership teams to define clearly the duties and responsibilities of each. It is not necessary to change League bylaws in order to have co-presidents, rather than a single president.
Executive committees, consisting of the president (or co-presidents) and several board members, can assume specific assignments and take action on board matters between regular board meetings, in accordance with powers granted them in the bylaws.
Board meetings are held as often as needed for the board to plan, direct and evaluate the work of the League. Frequency of meetings is usually stipulated in the bylaws. The board focuses on the broad policy, program and administrative decisions that must be made and should not get bogged down in detailed planning and implementation. These are best left to committees or assigned volunteers. Agendas for upcoming meetings and minutes of previous meetings should be circulated to board members ahead of time, along with written board briefing materials for members to review. Use of a timed agenda will assure that there is an opportunity to discuss each topic and will facilitate beginning and ending the meeting on time.
Although most board meetings will probably take place in person, bylaws may authorize electronic meetings if they are conducted by a technology (such as telephone or video conferencing) that is available to all and allows all persons participating to hear each other at the same time. E-mail is useful for communications between board meetings, but official decisions may be made by e-mail only if:
- the bylaws specifically authorize them and
- discussion/debate procedures have been adopted in advance.
Some leaders rise to leadership progressively through the League, while others may assume a leadership position without a lot of League experience. All, however, are committed to facilitating the organization’s bold steps forward to ensure the League’s success and future.
League leaders are expected to produce a wide range of results, but one of the most important ways to build the organization is by developing and mentoring new leaders. Current leaders can empower future leaders by helping them acquire the skills to build the organization’s future, such as planning and setting goals, defining priorities, and maximizing resources.
The nominating committee is charged with the important responsibility of identifying future League leaders. It is the task of the committee to promote service on the board as something that not only enhances the organization but also provides a chance for members to serve the organization—and experience personal growth.
The committee needs to be operational soon after its members are elected and operate on an ongoing basis. It should be proactive, seeking those who have particular skills of value to the organization—from among both League members and those who are not yet members. Nominating committee members should attend several board meetings in order to familiarize themselves with how the board operates and the responsibilities of the various board positions. This knowledge will assist them when they are considering the appropriate people for leadership positions. Unlike other League committees, the nominating committee is responsible to the membership, not to the board.
The nominating committee traditionally presents a single slate of officers and directors to the annual meeting or convention, although there is usually no bylaws requirement to do so. League bylaws do, however, provide for nominations from the floor.