Association Leadership: How Big is Your Board?

One simple facet of your association’s governance structure has a major influence on its operations: board size. Is a small board more efficient? Is a big board more representative?  Does size matter at all? Only you can decide. Here are both sides of the debate.

At your next board meeting, take a moment to count the number of directors on the board. Do you know why your association’s board is that size? It might seem trivial, but the number of people on an association board has an undeniable effect on its operations and on its directors’ interactions.

What is the right size? Well, that’s debatable. So debatable, in fact, that six association executives participated in an Oxford-style debate at ASAE’s 2012 Annual Meeting on this very topic. Small-board proponents cited greater flexibility, accountability, and administrative efficiency. Their opponents said large boards, properly structured, can accomplish all of that while being more inclusive and democratic.

Every association has its own needs, so there is likely no one-size-fits-all answer. But any discussion about governance structure should weigh the pros and cons of various board sizes. On the following pages, we present the key arguments for small and large boards, adapted from the conference debate.

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The Debaters

These arguments are adapted from debate notes and comments graciously provided by:

Paul A. Markowski, CAE, executive vice president and CEO, American College of Chest Physicians

Nancy Green, FASAE, CAE, executive director, National Association for Gifted Children

Susan K. Neely, president and CEO, American Beverage Association

Glenn Tecker, chairman and co-CEO, Tecker International LLC

Ann Turner, Ph.D., FASAE, CAE, executive director, American Association for Laboratory Animal Science and the AALAS Foundation

Scott Steen, FASAE, CAE, CEO, American Forests

Elissa M. Myers, president, Advice & Consensus

Joe Rominiecki

By Joe Rominiecki

Joe Rominiecki, manager of communications at the Entomological Society of America, is a former senior editor at Associations Now. MORE

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