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Advice and Resources for Private Club Management and Board Members

Best Practice Audit Survey – Board and Governance matters - #3 in a series

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Board & Governance For Private Club and Association Board Members

Not surprisingly, our Best Practice Audit survey devotes a lot of attention to Board & Governance matters and seeks to determine if club boards are truly taking long-term views in discharging their duties as stewards of the organization. To evaluate these areas, the survey delves into such sub-categories such as (1) strategic, financial and succession planning, (2) utility of Board orientations, and (3) the administration of Committees.

The results of our latest survey indicate that less than one-half of the respondents have a strategic plan and only 75% of those believe the membership is supportive of the plan. There’s certainly room for improvement in this area. It’s hard work and takes a consistent approach but there’s nothing more important for the future of your club. More than 85% of those with strategic plans include long-term financial plans. That’s a much better response rate than we see in the field, but perhaps that is due to our focus area.

Over 85% of the respondents indicated having effective nominating processes for Board members and just over 80% for Officers. It was interesting to note responses were far less positive when considering the appropriateness of succession planning for board members (58%) and officers (64%) as well as committee chairs (45%) and senior management (35%). Comments in the survey and in the field support a recognition at most clubs for the need to do more in all areas of succession planning. We’d be remiss if we failed to mention Terry Clark, founder of Club Advisors, an industry leader in interim GM and executive chef services. With little succession planning for managers and high turnover in the positions, his firm addresses an important need. In the spirit of full disclosure, Terry was very helpful in distributing the BPA survey to his network and extending our reach.

We view Board orientations for new board members as being critically important to the transfer of institutional knowledge and the efficient implementation of long-term plans. Less than 50% of respondents view their orientations as effective. In our opinion, very few clubs do an above-average job in this area. A full day or more could easily be devoted to an orientation or kick-off meeting but most Boards do not invest that kind of time. It’s an opportunity lost. Only 32% of the survey respondents viewed their Board orientations and training programs as effective. It was more promising to note that roughly 16% of the respondents were actively working on improving their orientations. It’s likely those clubs recognize that nothing derails plans faster than the rapid turnover of administrations in clubs without the proper transfer of knowledge of the plans in place. It was also concerning to note that less than 50% of the respondents reported their Boards setting an annual agenda. Boards primarily exist to plan for the future. It begins with planning for the next 12 months.

When it came to the administration of committees, very high positive responses were reported for board members chairing committees and reporting to the Board. Things got murky with periodic assessments of need (more than 30% did not) and issuing annual charges to committees (nearly 45% did not). There’s a tendency to let committees do what they’ve always done without clearly assessing the need for the committee and aligning the tactical efforts with the strategic efforts of the Board and goals for the Club. Committees consume a lot of General Manager time. It’s important to use that time efficiently and effectively. If you give committees a few hours each month to meet, they will find something to do! It’s important to provide focus that’s consistent with the overarching and longer-term goals of the club.

We also queried if clubs have Board Policy Manuals. While 12% of respondents were not sure or had them in process, 44% responded affirmatively and 44% responded negatively. We refer you to our related blog on this topic - Board Policy Manuals for Private Clubs– You likely need one! - and the CMAA website for more information on this critical tool for clubs looking to create one or improve the current version. The BPM should be an important element of any Board orientation or kick-off meeting.


Dave Duval and Joe Abely, the founders of Club Board Professionals, LLC, are both CPA/MBAs with more than a dozen years each of private club board experience as directors, treasurers, and presidents. They successfully honed their skills while guiding highly-successful transformations of their clubs during challenging markets and economic times before forming Club Board Professionals in 2016. They’ve quickly become speakers, consultants, coaches and contributing authors to the industry.

For further information please reach out to Joe Abely at jabely@cbpros.com or 781-953-9333, or Dave Duval at dduval@cbpros.com or 617-519-6281.