Nonprofit Elections: A Necessary Task

As we approach Election Day next Tuesday, I thought it might be timely to touch on elections for youth sports boards.  Elections for most nonprofits are a fairly mundane matter on which few boards really spend much time.  In fact, most nonprofits struggle to find volunteers who want to serve on the board, so it can seem almost crazy to expend effort to “elect” the few people who do step forward.

Still, elections play an important role.  Here are just a handful of reasons to pay attention to this issue:

  1. It’s the law: Assuming your league is a properly formed nonprofit, the law requires you to hold an election to properly elect your officers. Your organization’s bylaws should reflect that and set out some processes that should be followed. Ignoring elections, or conducting them improperly, could mean that your directors are not appropriately elected.  If so, every action those directors take could be in question!
  2. It’s a great opportunity: Most nonprofits are run by a small group of very dedicated volunteers who are prone to burnout over time. Use your election as a great excuse to get out and recruit some new talent.  Expand your board, if needed, in order to add more hands and voices.  If nothing else, find someone who can eventually replace a current officer (maybe even yourself!).
  3. It’s simple: Why risk legal entanglements, poor relations with your members, or any other negative consequences when running a proper election is so easy? A quick read of your bylaws and a bit of common sense are all you need.  As you set out, keep the following questions in mind:
  • Who gets to vote? Your bylaws should define your organization’s “members”.
  • Who will be on the ballot? Consider appointing a Nominating Committee to find candidates.
  • How will members vote? Getting everyone to vote in person can be tricky.  Online or mail voting may be better options.
  • What is the quorum? Bylaws will typically set out what percentage of members need to vote in order to have a valid election. Stick to it!
  • Will it be contested or a slate? Convincing a volunteer to serve is hard enough.  Having them then “run” for office against someone else just makes it worse.  Consider using a slate of candidates that the membership then votes to approve.

Granted, this is just a quick overview of issues related to elections.  Any of the questions above can be tricky, so pay attention to detail.  With so many priorities competing for your Board’s attention, elections can get lost in the shuffle.  Don’t ignore them!

For more information, visit the SportsOrganized.Com website, which hosts resources to help youth sports organizations pursue organizational excellence.  Or drop us a line at with any questions, comments or suggestions you might have.  We especially love to hear from organizations about best practices that work well.  Share your knowledge with others!