Considering our Board of Directors Elections Processes – Can We Improve?
In September, three members of MNFC’s Board of Directors, Lyn Dunton, Kate Gridley, and Ann LaFiandra, attended a Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) peer gathering in White River Junction, VT. Folks, mostly directors and a few staff, from the following coops across New England attended: Brattleboro Food Co-op (VT), Buffalo Mountain Co-op (VT), City Market/Onion River Co-op (VT), Co-op Food Stores (NH), Fiddleheads Food Co-op (CT),Franklin Community Co-op (MA), Greenstar Co-op Market (NY), High Falls Food Co-op (NY), Hunger Mountain Food Co-op (VT), Littleton Food Co-op (NH), Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op (VT), Monadnock Food Co-op (MA), Neighboring Food Co-ops (MA), Portland Food Co-op (ME), Putney Food Co-op (VT), River Valley Food Co-op (MA), Rutland Area Food Co-op (VT), Springfield Co-op (VT), Stone Valley Community Market (VT), Upper Valley Food Co-op (VT) and Willimantic Food Co-op (CT). Our topics of the day were: Member Engagement Strategies, Successful Board Recruitment and Retention Strategies, and The Challenges and Rewards of Diversity and Inclusion.
MNFC stands alone in not only having a fully filled Board of Directors, but every year for the past several election cycles, we have had 7 – 10 outstanding candidates run for the scheduled open slots (terms at MNFC are three years, and with an 11- member board, 3 or 4 terms are up in each election cycle). To our amazement, we learned that there are co-ops whose boards are not fully staffed, and there are election cycles in which there are no candidates! We also learned that many co-ops have embraced electronic voting – which has upped the percentage of members who participate in voting –and many co-ops have looked hard at their election processes.
- We are looking at our election processes as part of our board work for 2018- 2019. We’ll consider the following questions:
- What does it mean to be a board member?
- What kinds of decisions does the board make, what is the time commitment?
- Who is NOT running for our board? Why not?
- What are the barriers to running for the board?
- How can we best orient future candidates so that they understand the job they are running for?
- Facing a large slate of candidates, what will help our member-owners make decisions when casting their votes?
- How do our member-owners know if a candidate is qualified?
- How can we best present the slate of candidates?
- Should we sponsor a Meet the Candidates Mixer?
- How can we enhance the voting process to ensure more member-owner participation?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of moving to an electronic voting system
What Else Should We Consider?
I want to remind our member-owners that our Board of Directors meetings, 6:30 – 8:30 on the fourth Wednesday of every month, are open to you. We want our processes to be transparent and we want to know what you are hearing and what you are thinking. Member-Owner: this is a beautiful word. MNFC is owned by you, it’s members. And the work of the Board, using Policy Governance (which is simply an operating system), is to act and make decisions on behalf of and in the best interest of the member-owners. Perhaps this work interests you? Please let us know! To reach out to the board, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kate Gridley is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member