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Elections are coming, and sooner than you think. Here are a few keys to making sure you have a smooth election this year. 

1. Check with your current officers. Find out well in advance whether your current officers plan to run for reelection. It often takes time to recruit someone new, so it’s important not to get caught by surprise. 

2. Look to advance your top volunteers. People who already volunteer are the most likely candidates to take on more responsibility. Someone who helps run the talent show or organize fundraisers is more likely to say yes than someone who has worked the cleanup crew once. In addition, giving people increasing responsibility creates a more natural transition, and gives you a better idea of how they will fit on the board. 

3. Talk to people personally about running. It’s hard enough to get people to respond to a “volunteers wanted” notice for regular activities. It’s a real needle in a haystack to find someone who will respond to “president needed.” The best way to recruit officers is to talk to people individually, so you can explain what’s involved and answer the many questions they will have. 

4. Let them get a feel for the office. The biggest fear that people have about accepting a position is that they’re getting involved in a commitment of time or responsibility that they can’t handle. Be open to showing your candidates the inner workings of your group. Let them sit in on a board meeting. Show them how decisions are made, even if the process is messy. The more open you are and the more they know what to expect, the more likely you are to find a willing candidate.

Finally, don’t take elections for granted. Most years, you might have the same officers retaining their positions. But sometimes things don’t go as planned. Take some time to think ahead about elections. Your board positions are important—filling them with the right people, people who are prepared and committed to making your group successful, makes a big difference.