For Many, Recruiting Volunteers Becoming Real Challenge

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Credit unions are reporting increasing difficulties in attracting and retaining candidates for their boards of directors, as competition intensifies for volunteer panels for all kinds of organizations.

As a result, fewer and fewer credit union directors face any kind of opposition during biennial elections and virtually all incumbents are guaranteed reelection, if they so desire.

"This is the going to be the big issue facing credit unions, getting people to run for their boards," said Fred Johnson, president of the CU Executives Society (CUES) during the group's annual convention here. "We're even having trouble finding people to run for our board. There's just so much competition out there from other groups looking for volunteers for the boards."

"Recruitment of new board members is always a problem," said Phil Browarsky, who was actively recruited two years ago to serve on the board of Glass City FCU, Maumee, Ohio.

"We don't have people dying to be on the board," conceded Robynn Estrada, a director at Transco FCU, Houston, adding that most board elections are uncontested.

Credit unions are offering a variety of inducements to attract new talent to their boards, from "director-in-training" programs, to trips to exotic locales such as the luxurious Wyndham Conquistador Resort here, to health insurance, to generous honorariums and fees for attending board meetings.

"We are bringing them (candidates) in from committees. We say, 'If you want to be on the board, first serve on a committee,' " offered Rosemary Deaton, a director for Fort Knox FCU, Fort Knox, Ky., who noted a particular problem continues to be getting younger people to serve.

Looking To SEGs

Henry Wheatley, chairman of the Fort Knox FCU board, said they are hoping to attract representatives of the credit union's select employee groups (SEGs) to serve as the credit union continues to add more and more SEGs.

"It's difficult for younger people to get involved because they're trying to balance work, with a wife and kids," said Windsor Jones, a 36-year-old, first-time director at Aberdeen Proving Ground FCU, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., who was elected to the board from the credit union's "alternative director" program.

Under that program, which is becoming increasingly popular among some credit unions, members of credit union committees are invited to attend and participate in board meetings but may not vote on issues.

Edwin Repulski, a director for 30 years at Sarasota (Fla.) Coastal CU, where the average age of directors is 50 and at least two members are over 70, said SCCU has stepped up efforts to bring in younger people. Those initiatives include training sessions for prospective candidates for board and committees and active recruitment through the credit union's newsletter.

Some credit unions have turned to paying directors as an inducement, with at least half-dozen states allowing some kind of fees or honorarium for board members. Not surprisingly, those credit unions report fewer problems attracting directors. Municipal Employees CU, Baltimore, for example, which pays its directors a $200 honorarium for each of the bi-monthly meetings-$4,800 a year in total-has few difficulties attracting candidates to serve, according to Herman Williams, Jr., chairman of the board. He said they strive to get representation from the city's major worker constituencies, like the unions, and have no problems getting candidates to run for the panel.

No Problems In Plano

Similarly, Gary Base, president of Community CU, Plano, Texas, one of at least a dozen Texas credit unions that pay directors, said by telephone his credit union does not have any difficulty getting people to run for the board.

"We never had any problems attracting people," said Base, whose credit union also sends its directors to conferences, including CUNA's annual Government Affairs Conference in Washington, every year. Nevertheless, Base said there is very little turnover on his board, which he does not see as a problem.

"Quantity does not necessarily mean quality. Experience is key," he said.

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