6 communication tips for encouraging members to stand for election

Membership organisations often require members to sit on their board/council to oversee the strategic direction of the organisation. Like with any volunteering opportunity, it can sometimes be a challenge to find people who are willing to come forward.

I think one of the complications with board/council elections, is that they have often have a formal & legal aspect which can ‘scare’ membership body staff into communicating in a very formal way when inviting members to stand for election. Overly formal language can be off putting and isn’t always clear.

I have worked with a couple of membership body clients on improving board/council calls for nominations, all of which have resulted in new people coming forward.

I thought I’d share a few tips:

  1. Ditch the overly formal language – there are often things you have to include in the letters around the elections/AGM process, but it is unlikely your governing documents stipulate all the content. Use plain English!
  2. Be clear about the roles – don’t assume that members outside your engaged core of members know what it means to be a board member. I’d suggest being open about where board meetings take place, for how long and where.
  3. Appeal to hearts and minds  – like with any communications you need to think about the audience and what will resonate. Are you asking them to join you to stand up for the profession? Or are you asking for them to provide their professional expertise? Will they be helping to take the organisation in a new direction?
  4. Sell it – use current board members to give a quote about they are involved. Talk about the positive aspects like making a difference, driving the organisation forward and also raising their profile.
  5. Offer support – not everyone is going to read the message and think ‘That is for me’. Sometimes they might want to know more or have questions. Offering the opportunity of an informal conversation with the CEO or a board member can help members decide if it for them.
  6. Use all your channels – don’t just rely on sending an email. You can create a buzz about the elections by using all your communication channels. I like how the Archives and Records Association (ARA) positions its call for nominations.

How can you make your invitation to stand for election communications more appealing?

Once you move onto your encouraging members to vote, see my vintage blog about the Association of Project Management great election communications and how they increased their voter turnout by 38%.

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