A New Model for Association Meetings and Decisions

By Peter J. Westerhaus • July 1, 2021

Recent times have ushered in significant changes in the way associations conduct business. Gone are the days when work could only be done in the office, or meetings and conventions could only occur in person. New technologies have created new best practices, and organizations began implementing and adapting to them years ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, only accelerated the pace at which change and adaptation has taken place. As in-person meetings and events have been shelved, organizations have increasingly begun to conduct them virtually. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting and other software platforms have filled this gap, with generally positive results.

But that alone isn’t enough; per bylaws and other regulations, associations still have to conduct business and make key decisions regarding governance, operational strategy and more. They also have to ensure those decisions are made and processed properly, with discussion, secure balloting, vote counting, reporting and record-keeping.

Before the pandemic, associations would handle these important decisions during in-person meetings, either through a paper balloting and manual counting process or some secure technology system. But none of those processes or systems integrate with virtual meeting platforms, and those platforms themselves do not have these capabilities. Put simply, old ways of voting and running meetings just don’t work anymore.

A New Way of Making Decisions

As a result of these challenges, associations have had to get pretty creative about how to hold meetings and conduct decisions. We’ve seen all sorts of models in play, from snail mail to individual calls and online meetings. None have seemed to work particularly well.

But software-as-a-service voting platforms solve the potential problems of large-group elections or group decisions made remotely. With a cloud-based voting tool, voting groups can conduct their business regardless of whether or not people are physically in the same place. They also move away from paper, in-person or other newer models of voting, which eliminates the human error and accidental discrepancies that could come into play with such methods.

With an online system, administrators can take several easy actions through a dashboard:

  • Add and monitor upcoming meetings;
  • Track or add attendees for particular meetings;
  • Add, open and close motion items;
  • Specify whether vote results should be public or anonymous;
  • Review live results;
  • Email and/or text reminder notices to attendees at specific dates/times before meetings, as they begin and/or as particular votes are taken;
  • Review and download reports on attendance and vote results.

The voter/attendee experience is just as simple. They can join meetings, view motions and vote in one or two clicks. It’s easy for less tech-savvy users to follow, and it works to standardize the voting process so human error and discrepancies aren’t an issue.

Listen to Pete and his colleague Tony from Survey and Ballot Systems discuss the benefits of cloud-based voting systems on The Association Adviser Podcast.

Advantages of SaaS Platforms

When comparing a platform like this to other voting models, there are many advantages:

  • Administrators love they can set up meetings and motions whenever they want and add or adjust as needed on the fly during meetings. Participants love that they can use any device they want from wherever they are to participate in meetings and vote.
  • Administrators can create their account, set up meetings, add motions and attendees, etc. in mere minutes. All the time that administrators save along the way can be refocused on other duties, helping to simplify their jobs and boost productivity.
  • Users can have confidence in the integrity of their meeting and vote, because of the industry-leading, cutting-edge features platforms can deploy.
  • Efficiency and Savings. Instead of spending large amounts of time and money traveling to meetings or physical locations just so that votes can be taken, those functions now can be accomplished virtually. That also means that all of the resources saved can be redeployed, generating greater value for associations and their stakeholders. The potential bottom-line improvement could be a real game changer.
  • Software platforms can accommodate all groups, committees, staff or other users from an organization who want or need to participate in meetings.
  • Minimal Technology Required. All anyone needs to use the platform is an Internet connection and a computer, tablet or smartphone. It operates alongside any meeting software, no matter which one you use. It also eliminates the need for “clickers” or devices that exist just to enable voting.

After investing the time and resources to adapt and operate in virtual environments, it’s highly unlikely that organizations will revert to the old ways of doing things when the pandemic lifts. In-person meetings are valuable and often necessary, and they’re bound to bounce back in a big way. But that doesn’t mean that decisions will be made using old methods, or votes will be conducted via paper ballots, or other legacy operational systems will be used again. Instead, a hybrid approach will be used—one that embraces and integrates newer technology into in-person and virtual meetings of all sizes.

DirectVoteLive by Survey and Ballot Systems has created a strategic bridge to the future. They have ushered in new best practices for meetings and events that deliver efficiencies, reliability, security and simplicity. Associations already have come to rely on them for their successful operations and intend to find ways to keep using them well into the future. Learn more about DirectVoteLive.

About The Author

Pete Westerhaus is account manager with Survey & Ballot systems, a leader for three decades in election operations. For more information on DirectVoteLive, visit www.surveyandballotsystems.com or call 800-974-8099.