By Bobby Peralta posted 01-03-2023 08:59


Two years of crisis navigation has impacted the governance of associations, both for the better and in challenging ways. For many of association board leaders, reflecting on how their association was able to thrive (or even survived) at the height of pandemic is in no small part because of their contribution that has deepened loyalty and commitment.

A big part of this contribution is investing in board leadership which starts right after a member is elected to the board. This includes three processes: orientation; refresh; and, onboarding.

This was tackled in the first monthly webinar of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executive (PCAAE) under its “Association Leadership Webinar Series of 2023.” Entitled “Association Governance: Post-demic Calibration for the Future,” the webinar was conducted by Lowell Aplebaum, CEO of US-based Vista Cova, a team of expert facilitators who support strategic planning, member engagement, and governance design for associations.

The following are my takeaways from the webinar.

1. Orientation. The process of assisting new board members to enable them to contribute fully, and as early in their term as possible, to the governance work of the board.

This includes the knowledge, practice, and culture that a board member should know before they begin their tenure. Among others, these comprise the following: those already provided during the election process; governance structure; values; strategies; agreements of obligations; legal principles; board meetings; agendas and minutes; staff role; integration of strategy to board work; board mentorship; and, connection with the CEO and/or Executive Director.

2. Refresh. If board orientation is for new incoming members, refresh is for returning board members. This includes, among others, reflection and evaluation of their experience and shifts in service expectations as well as updates on responsibilities and legal principles.

3. Onboarding. This is about bringing together a new board in a team formation process aimed at having a well-functioning leadership group. It covers aspects such as: simulations; crisis response; ethics challenge; public relations training/representation; conscious inclusion training; strategy consultation for components/chapters; foresight exploration; and, relationship building.

Association boards have many roles and responsibilities in their governing work, notably providing strategic direction and management oversight as well as setting policies and raising funds. As such, there are a number of ways they can face difficult and challenging situations.

In most cases, boards get derailed from their task due to confusion or vagueness which can happen when they don’t understand the expectations, goals, or even the basic processes of the organization. This is why effective orientation, refresh and onboarding are essential elements for board leadership success.

So, whether it’s about bringing new members onto a board that has been together for many years or just starting a board from scratch, the three above-mentioned processes prepare and enable them for the job ahead.

The pandemic has brought about a key challenge in relation to board leadership investment, i.e., to fill the governance pipeline in the face of everyone feeling they have less time in their hands to serve boards.

This article was published by the Business Mirror on  February 10, 2022 and may not be reproduced without prior consent from the writer and Business Mirror.