From Associate Board to BOD

Published: about 3 years ago by Lauren King.

We sat down with Ray Padilla, who has extensive experience with Associate Boards. He served on both the Junior Achievement Associate Board and the Chicago American Red Cross Auxiliary Board. He was also a co-founding member of the Center for Economic  Progress (CEP) Associate Board.  He currently serves on the CEP Board of Directors. We reached out to learn his perspective on how Associate Boards and Board of Directors can engage to enhance both of their missions.


AABA: After playing an important role in the success of the CEP board, you were recruited for the CEP Board of  Directors. How do you think your involvement on the associate board helped prepare you for that new role?

RP: Serving on the associate board, helped me better understand the way nonprofits work. It also helped me become acquainted with board affairs and activities like   parliamentary procedure and voting rights, which many may not be familiar with. One of the first things I did for the Associate Board was help review and edit their bylaws. It helped that I was familiar with these kinds of documents from serving on associate boards. Also, while I was on the associate board, I was able to attend some BOD meetings, which gave me an appreciation of what to expect.


AABA: What are some of the biggest differences between serving on the Associate Board and serving on the Board of Directors.

RP: The functions of the boards are separate in goals, but united in mission. Both boards aim to support a nonprofit organization. However, whereas the Associate Board primarily focuses on raising funds, the BOD  provides regular direction, guidance and oversight, as well as fundraising.  The BOD is responsible for overseeing the nonprofit organization so meetings are covering topics related to strategic planning, budget oversight,  supporting the Executive Director, ensuring effective organizational planning, etc. The fundraising is also very different. Instead of planning fundraising events, I’m now being asked to help with making big asks to ensure adequate resources. Also, the personal giving  expectation of serving on the BOD is an important responsibility and very different from the associate board, but the amount of the personal gift is less important that the extent of each Director’s participation.


AABA: You now serve as the liaison between the board of directors and the associate board. What are some ways in which you think the two boards can best serve one another.


RP: As the liaison, I attend associate board meetings, provide guidance and direction, and report back to the BOD. This is to help create consistent connectivity. Again, because both groups are there to support the same organization, there’s opportunity to really help one another. It’s more than attending each other’s events. For example, our BOD will sometimes invite associate board members to sit on certain committees so that they get a different perspective. (There’s often a two decade age difference between associate board members and BOD members). With regard to the associate board serving as a pipeline to BOD, it’s important to create opportunities for associate board members to attend BOD meetings and even present at the meetings. Ultimately, it’s important to empower the associate board instead of just looking at them simply to raise funds.


And because he had such great experience, we couldn’t help but get his thoughts on what it takes to have a successful associate board.

AABA:  You have extensive experience with both large and small Associate Boards. What do you think are the key components to running a successful Associate Board?

RP: While serving on various boards, it became painfully clear that time is a key component to success. People who join the boards need to understand the expectations of how much time they will be spending on planning and attending events andattending meetings.  And it’s all on a volunteer basis.  Equally important, it needs to be organized time. It’s like any relationship, if you don’t devote quality time, then it just won’t last. So it’s important that the board creates thoughtful and specific recruitment materials that accurately reflect what is expected of board members.

Another key piece is succession planning, or ensuring you have future leaders lined up to take over when executive committee members leave. That means that on top of leading the board, current executive committee members need to also be watching members for leadership qualities and interest in taking on a larger role. They need to also further develop that interest.  Spending time recognizing potential leadership among members can be difficult (I’m still learning how to spot those qualities) and is often overlooked, but it’s essential to a strong board.

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