Board of Directors in Professional Associations

Every professional association or organization has a board of directors which acts as the governing body. The duty of the board is to formulate policies and manage the affairs of the association, whilst being accountable to its members. The board must also ensure that they are acting in accordance with their bylaws and the Canadian Not-For-Profit Act


As stated in the Canadian Not-For-Profit Act, the directors shall “manage or supervise the management of the activities and affairs of a corporation”. The act also stipulates that the board should have at least three members, but for the rest remains fairly open on how it is to be structured. Dependent on the size, the board may be further divided into various committees that have a specific focus.

Board members normally meet 4-6 times per year and often chair multiple committees. They are not paid or employed by the association but are instead volunteers that normally work in the profession that the organization is representing. Standard terms lengths vary but are typically three years. 

Composition of the Board

Different professional organizations will have different structures to their board. Below is an example of what a board can, but does not have to, comprise of:

  • President
    • The President chairs all association meetings.
    • The President is not normally elected by the membership at large, but is instead elected or appointed by their fellow directors.
  • Vice-President
    • The Vice-President chairs meetings in the absence of the President.
    • Normally elected by other members of the board, rather by the membership at large.
  • Past-President
    • The Past-President, as the name suggests, is the previous President.
    • In many associations, they remain on the board after their term regardless of whether or not they ran again as a director. They are responsible for advising the current president, and may occasionally chair meetings.
  • Treasurer
    • In charge of the association’s finances and budget.
  • Director at large
    • These are members of the board who are not necessarily designated a particular role. They are normally placed into various committees.
    • These members are normally voted in by the association’s membership in a general election.

Every board of directors needs ensure that it acts in accordance with the association’s bylaws. To learn more about bylaws and their contents, click here.

Board Elections

Directors are voted in by the membership at large during annual elections. They may represent a specific district or province, in which case only members of the said district can elect them. Members wishing to run must nominate themselves using forms found on the association’s website. The Nomination Committee will then determine if the candidate is eligible.

While there has been a marked shift to online voting in recent years, too many professional associations still vote via mail. With these organizations having hundreds of thousands of members, the entire election process becomes expensive and time consuming. Rather than printing off thousands of ballots papers, with POLYAS online voting only a single e-ballot needs to be created and then distributed via email. A process that would normally take months to organize can be completed in just a few clicks.

If you would like to learn more, get in touch with our election experts today.