Professional Association Election FAQs

All professional associations are required to hold director elections, resolution votes and bylaw amendments. These can often be passed by the board of directors, but need to be accepted by the membership at large. Members directly influence the running of the professional association, but the role of directors, the voting process and candidacy stages can often be confusing. Below we go through the most common professional association election FAQs.

General Questions

What does the Board of Directors do?
The board is the body responsible for the management of the professional association. All directors are democratically elected from the membership base and help decide upon the direction and management of the association. 

How many directors does a professional association have?
There is a minimum requirement of three directors: a President, an elected secretary and a treasurer. Other than that there is no upper limit. There is a practical limit in place, as too many directors can make decision making a slow and unwieldy process. Most professional Associations have between eight and twelve directors. 

What is the Election Process for Directors?
Directors must be elected from the membership of the professional association. Some associations opt to elect their directors at their AGM while others hold online, postal or in-person elections.  Elections are often staggered so that not all positions are up for election at once. This usually results in the need for annual elections. 

What are Bylaw Changes?
Any bylaw change or resolution must be voted upon by the members at large. These votes are usually conducted at an AGM so that the implications of the vote can be thoroughly debated.
Learn more about AGM voting with POLYAS

Candidates and Deadlines

Who can Stand as a Candidate?
As the board needs to be able to understand the needs of the members and what is necessary to further the interests of the association, the board must be made up of members of the professional association. 

Who can Nominate Candidates?
Every member can nominate a candidate to run for office. Candidates often have to receive a specific number of nominations. This number should be clearly marked in your bylaws. The nomination period should end well before the election is due to start. This gives the election committee enough time to filter out invalid candidates and put together a legally valid election.  

Are there Term Lengths & Limits?
There is no single term length that all professional associations conform to. Term lengths vary between associations but they are always between one and five yeaThis information should be easy to find in your bylaws. However, the majority of professional associations have a term length of two or three years. Directors are often only permitted to stand for a fixed number of consecutive terms. After this term limit, they are not allowed to run for election or hold office until an allotted time limit has been reached. 

What are the Responsibilities of a Director?
Board members run the association for the benefit of, and on behalf of the members. They are required to attend board meetings, must chair various committees as well as overseeing the general management of the professional association. 

POLYAS-Tip: The Bylaws and Election guidelines of your Professional association are an invaluable source of information. 

Elections & Voting Rights

Do all Members Receive Voting Rights?
This depends largely upon the make-up of the membership within your professional association. In some associations, there are different membership levels – those with full voting rights and those who do not have a say in the decision-making process. As Professional Association members all come from a particular profession it is rare that members will be divided into voting and non-voting member. This can sometimes occur when members are not yet fully fledged members of the profession -trainees or apprentices for example.

Is Online Voting Common & is it Permitted
This depends entirely on the bylaws of your professional association. There is no legislation preventing your association to switch to online voting or digitalise your AGM voting process.  Many Professional associations already conduct their board elections and AGM elections electronically. It is cheaper, results in a higher turnout and is far easier to manage than traditional election procedures. 

How can Bylaws be changed? 
The exact process with which you can amend your bylaws should be laid out in the bylaws themselves. You will, however, be required to hold an election (postal, online, in person or combined) or to vote on the amendment at your next AGM.

Read how to amend professional Association Bylaws now!