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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – With the growing diversity of credit union members, boards are faced with the challenge of infusing their organizations with new energy while finding new board directors who are the right “fit”. “It is very important for boards of nonprofits to look at their current board, current goals and strategies in assessing the need for new board members,” said BoardSource CEO Deborah S. Hechinger. “In the search process they must know their boards’ strengths and weaknesses and look for someone new who can fill those gaps. Your selection process has to be in the context of people who best meet the needs of the institution rather than filling the position with individuals who are like those currently serving.” For some, the recent credit union merger trend has been a boon in tapping experienced board directors. Mountain America Credit Union Board Director Lynn Ure served as board chairman of Metro West CU for some 25 years before joining MACU after the two CUs merged. “Coming from a small credit union I think our board meetings were more animated, but we were really involved in the day-to-day running issues,” said Ure, “Here the MACU staff management put together these great comprehensive monthly packages which are provided online in advance of the meeting, so we know financials and business issues going into the meeting and can focus on dealing with the extraordinary items.” Ure currently serves on the nominating committee as well and says they look for candidates who understand the financials and human membership side to ensure the board has a good balance. In addition to CPAs, the current board includes an attorney, human resources vice president and a computer software entrepreneur. He says just advertising in the newsletter generates an average of 20-30 really well-qualified applicant resumes. “We look at their experience with credit unions and educational background to make sure that the ones selected have the best interests of the credit union at heart,” said Ure. “At my old credit union we had no nominating committee, put names in a hat and ran these big expensive open elections, and in my mind it wasn’t as effective because you could end up with some board members who didn’t understand their role or worse had a hidden agenda.” Ure adds that depending on the experience of the new board members, those who need it are provided additional training to help them get up to speed in a particular area. According to Hechinger, board orientation programs are excellent ways to help new members make the transition into their new roles. “The program helps the new board member to navigate goals, challenges of the organizational operations of key strategies and basic governance issues, bylaws and board member expectations,” said Hechinger. “If you’ve recruited the right board member you have to allow that individual to get up to speed whether it is having a dedicated person to meet their needs or an orientation program ensure the new recruit has to have enough background on the organization and expectations.” Actors Federal Credit Union Board Director Susan Walker who has served for just a year says the experience has been a rewarding one that she credits to her credit union’s board education process. “I’ve learned so much, and from the beginning I was made to feel as though I’d been invited to be part of a family business environment,” said Walker. Walker says new board members are brought into the credit union for a two to three-day introduction to the board’s responsibilities and learning the financial ABCs of running the CU. In addition, volunteers who are interested in becoming board members are invited to sit in on some five board meetings to get a better feel of what is entailed. “That welcome and education as far as the nomenclature of the business has made all the difference and it encourages us to make comments and really contribute to board discussions,” said Walker. “It is nice that we can all have a meeting of minds and differences of opinion while doing a lot of good for the credit union.” Over at Fresno, California-based Educational Employees Credit Union, an associate volunteer program has proved to be a breeding ground for future board members. Each year the board of directors appoints up to three candidates to the program. Associate volunteers complete educational training, added board and supervisory committee meetings and participate in planning sessions. “The program has proven to be a great asset for us,” said EECU President/CEO Bruce Barnett. ” Each member has the potential to be elected by the membership to serve on the board or supervisory committee.” Since the program’s launch in 2003 some four associate volunteers have moved on to serve as board or supervisory committee members. Hechinger says putting the time into making new members comfortable will pay off in the long run. “ Give new directors time between when they accept the position and before the board meeting for an orientation to the organization,” said Hechinger. “You can also have a group of new board members just get together to learn from each other so they have an opportunity to ask questions they may be shy to mention to people who already know the answers. It makes for a great opportunity for them to listen to information under circumstances in which they feel comfortable. The better the orientation the more that new board member will contribute.” [email protected]

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