How To Keep CU Volunteers From Going The Way Of The Typewriter

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Credit unions must act now to ensure that volunteer boards of directors don't go the way of carbon paper and vinyl records, according to David Gilbert, chairman of Aberdeen Proving Ground FCU and sole volunteer currently serving on the NAFCU board.

"There are things on the precipice of extinction that we thought would be around forever, and then years later we wonder, what ever happened to that,'" Gilbert said at NAFCU's 38th Annual Meeting, who suggested CUs may need to ask themselves, "Is the volunteer in the credit union movement soon to be extinct? Are volunteers no longer a driving force?"

Some two-thirds of CUs report having difficulties getting qualified volunteers, and the primary culprit is time. Between full-time jobs and families-not to mention the potential liabilities and responsibilities of directorship-many would-be board members decide they don't have the time or desire to serve, he suggested.

"The thing is, good and successful talent usually is very busy," Gilbert noted. "These are the very people we want." If CUs want to attract the very best people to serve on their boards, they have to come up with a more professional approach that appeals to the next generation of volunteers.

To start with, document the opportunities for volunteers. "Some don't really know what the credit union is or what the job is," he noted. "Provide information about the organization and describe the volunteer's role in it."

One potential benefit today's would-be volunteers are interested in is how serving on the board of a financial institution will look on their resumes, something most credit unions don't think to flaunt.

Other benefits a volunteer might accrue include everything from specialized training and being part of a prestigious organization to the opportunity to offer valuable community service and meeting new people.

Publicize the role of volunteers-get photos, articles and announcements in the news, make presentations, get the word out about the awards the CU has won and other accolades.

To attract good people, CUs may need to revamp the current infrastructure for board recruitment. Gilbert suggested appointing a volunteer recruitment committee and create a folder of recruitment material that includes testimonials from past or current volunteers saying how much they have learned from having been on the board. "What this is," he said, "is a cooperative school of finance. Think about how powerful that is. You can tell people that on the board, they will be doing what MBAs are studying."

Since time is such an issue, create some flexibility. For example, recruit volunteers for short-term projects, such as a policy review or special survey, or create advisory or associate positions. People are more likely to sign up for a small task and then, after learning more about the organization and the board, they may decide they want to run for the board.

Similarly, steamline meetings by using consent agendas, e-mail for agenda planning, teleconferencing options and other time-saving tools.

Gilbert also touched on an issue that cropped up later on at NAFCU's business meeting: getting volunteers into leadership positions at the state and national levels (CUJ 07/25/05).

The best way to build for national or state-level volunteer opportunities is to get as much education and exposure as possible, such as:

* attending conferences, web casts

* reading trade journals

* seeking committee assignments

* contribute and gain experience, recognition

* review election schedules, procedures and requirements

* campaign.

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