"Good Horsemanship is Built on Solid
Basics...So is Good Business!"
Leadership Through Board Development
By Lisa Derby Oden
You're on the executive committee of your local horse association (group
You receive a request in the mail to represent your group on their executive
council from another horse association (group b). You receive it on December
30, and the application has a January 9 deadline. The request asks you
name one representative and an alternate to their executive council, both
who must be members in good standing of their association. This is the
time your association has been contacted about this. There is no other
explanation of: who else sits on the executive council; how often the
executive council meets; the representatives expected duties; and time
commitment. Also missing from this request is a phone number for a contact
person from group b. All you have is the return address for the person
send the request back to. You're left with many questions, and it will
a lot of time for you to track down a contact.
Many horse associations miss out on getting the leadership on their
board that they are after. The example above demonstrates a poorly
implemented board development plan. Other associations struggle along
wanting more involvement, but not knowing what kind of additional assistance
they need. If any of this sounds like your horse association, you can
greatly improve your situation by putting together a Board Development
Step one: Composition analysis
Compile a list of all the organization, administrative, technical,
professional, and equine skills your association needs. Determine what
skills and experience you have on your board right now. Make a matrix
lists the skills across the top horizontally and the board members up
down vertically. Check off the skills that your board currently has.
Hopefully your matrix shows a variety of skills spread across the chart.
you have excessive overlap or duplication, your board is incredibly strong
in one area, but quite weak in all others, and in need of balance. Either
way, this will show you what skills you need to look for in new board
members. Do some brainstorming to come up with names of others that have
Step two: Nomination
Contact the list of people you've come up with to determine their
interest and availability. If your initial contact is a letter, include
association brochure with basic information about your association. Also
send along a Board Member Job Description. This will let them know what
their responsibilities are, and should also indicate how much of a time
commitment is involved. Let them know you'll follow up with a call to
any questions they may have. When you call be prepared to gather additional
information from the nominee. This can be done on a Nomination Form, so
information gathered from all candidates is consistent. Include: name,
address, phone, email, business, and business contact information; a list
other organizations this person is involved with; a brief biography; and
skills and qualifications this person has.
After this nominee has become part of your board, you can use some of
the information you gathered to do a press release about them having joined
your association leadership. Send your press release to trade publications,
your website, and the newspaper that is closest to your association office
and the new board members home. Be sure to keep your members informed
including this in your newsletter as well.
Step three: Board member orientation
Help your new board member feel welcomed and part of the group. Provide
the new member with a packet of information about your association. Items
that will be useful to a newcomer are: by-laws and policy manual; vision
mission statements; budget; recent newsletter(s); membership brochure;
previous year's annual report; minutes of the last several meetings; contact
list of the other board members; and any other printed materials that
Current board members can call and welcome the new member aboard. You
can establish a "buddy system" for the first few meetings. A
member contacts the new member before and after the meetings to see if
questions have come up, if the new member requires any additional resources
or contacts, or if there are any other concerns that require attention.
Provide an introduction of all board members the first time you all meet
Make it easy for the new member to find his/her niche. Have a listing
of all your committees and what the current goals are so that the new
members skills can be useful in the beginning.
Taking these steps demonstrates professionalism about your horse
association. Nominees will recognize this and want to be part of your
If they aren't available at the time you ask, they may be in the future.
addition, they will have had a chance to get to know more about your
association, and may support you in other ways. They may contribute
financially, with additional contacts, and by spreading the word about
frequently asked question is -
Is it bad to have empty seats on our board?
The answer is not a simple yes or no. Take a look at how many total spots
you have? How many empty spots do you have? If you have several spots
and this has been a consistent part of your history, then you have a
problem. You may have a hard time getting a quorum at meetings, in which
case transacting association business gets bogged down. Have you taken
time to do some outreach for new board members? Outreach can take time,
is often a "cultivating" process. You may not see the results
efforts within the current year. Perhaps the size of your board is simply
too big. Consider the full impact of cutting the size before you do. A
is meant to represent a variety of ideas and skills, and you cut your
to some of these when you cut the size. On the other hand, don't accept
someone to fill a board seat just because its empty. Be sure they are
interested in your association and want to help. Otherwise, you'll have
absentee board members.
Derby Oden has been providing business development, marketing, and
association consulting services to the horse industry since 1995. Oden
author of "Growing Your Horse Business" and "Bang For Your
$ense of Marketing For Your Horse Business." . She is the 1999 AHC
Van Ness Award recipient for outstanding service to the horse industry.
She can be reached at: (603)878-1694; email at Lisa@horseconsulting.com;
or visit her website at www.horseconsulting.com)