Thinking on PASS Chapter Elections

One of the conversations I had at SQLSaturday Austin was about Chapters, governance, and edge cases. To really condense and generalize, most Chapters are fairly small in terms of attendances, assets, and revenue. I’d bet it’s a handful or two at most that have bothered to incorporate and without having access to solid numbers, I’ll get that the average attendance is 10 to 30 people month over month. The governance side of is typically informal and is at the discretion of the group (mostly). It’s pretty rare to have the luxury of multiple people wanting to lead the group!

Make a mental leap for a minute to assume that there is a way to qualify voters to prevent someone doing a hostile takeover or otherwise stuffing the ballot box. Got that?

So why do I care about elections? Why should you? Why should PASS?

  • Governance is governance. Dispense with minutes, bank account, voter registration and all the rest, it seems like the one thing a group should do is elect (and possibly re-elect) someone to drive.
  • It gives the group the ability to replace a leader that is failing them
  • It gives the group the ability to replace someone who thinks they should be the leader for life (aka, it’s MY chapter because I started it)
  • It time boxes the leader. They can set goals for a term, think about whether they have the energy for another term, etc.
  • It could/should encourage thoughts around growing other volunteers and having a succession plan
  • Nothing about an election stops a leader from running for re-election, continuing to serve, etc. I’m not proposing term limits!

Most chapters do fine with close to zero rules. The edge cases of a failing leader or one who won’t let go are just that, edge cases, but they do happen. Having just a hint of process allows the group, or PASS, to step in if things get off track. As it is now, if something goes wrong and its raised to PASS, the answer has been something along the lines of ‘that’s a local matter’. I’ve witnessed a conversation along those lines at a Board Q&A.

This isn’t fully baked. The existing chapter leaders do a lot with a little and I love them for it. PASS shouldn’t make life harder for Chapters, or make rules just because. But here’s my question – why would it be a bad thing to require Chapters to hold an election at least once every x years and audit that it was done? Would that be such a leap? Why wouldn’t we do that? Aside from adding ‘one more thing’, is there a real downsize that I don’t see?

2 thoughts on “Thinking on PASS Chapter Elections

  1. I’m not sure I agree with you Andy. I founded and run dotNet Miami. As it’s community leader it’s up to me to find out what the group wants/needs and how to implement them. I’m not a fan of elections. In small groups it’s too easy to put someone in charge that’s not ready for the responsibility. It becomes a popularity contest.

    In dotNet Miami we don’t have a board we have a core team that works together to move the group forward. We only meet once a year to review the previous year and set the vision for the next year. This core team is chosen by me so I can gather feedback and get new ideas. They are our most dedicated members. They are the ones that are willing to get stuff done. They are diverse, in age, in race, in gender, in culture, in heritage, in professional experience, in tenure with the group, in thought. This diversity, united by the dotNet Miami vision, allows us to come with better decisions, goals and purpose. I couldn’t get that from an election.

    How can we get that in PASS chapters?

    I have no clue.


    1. Richie, thanks for reading and replying. Arguably most elections are about branding and popularity as much or more than platform. Does that mean we shouldn’t have elections? Not a simple question.

      You are indeed a community leader, but self appointed, right? I get that without you doing it, nothing would be happening. But it’s going now, eventually you’ll get tired, or move to a different city. Will you have time to pick the successor? Are you grooming one? If not, how does the next leader get picked? Do you think it will be anything less than popularity or who has the loudest voice?

      Nothing about an election prevents a leader from picking that diverse team you that mention. A good leader should do that.

      I get the risk. Really I do. Handing off an event I created wasn’t without risks, but I thought it was the best way to insure its survival over the long term. It could go wrong. But if you write the rules, you can easily head off the worst. Something as simple as “candidates for the position of President must have served at least one year on the committee and attended 80% of the meetings. If no such candidates are available, any member who has attended x meetings in the last x months will be considered eligible. members that have done Y are allowed to vote”.

      Your group is working because its yours. Your vision, your passion. Do you think they wouldn’t re-elect you? More than that, isn’t it a great challenge to build something that is good enough to survive a change in leaders, that grows more leaders, that serves the local community long after you move on to the next challenge.

      This would be good over coffee!


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