Successful community-led housing organisations rely on the commitment, enthusiasm and resilience of their leaders and board members. During the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen a decrease in the number of board members for local groups as well as a reduction in the number in attendance at meetings, especially where they have been moved online.
As we discussed in our previous blog post, we recognised the importance of and need for affordable, secure and good quality accommodation within Swindon and Wiltshire. We have learnt from the pandemic that homes need to be built to meet the needs of our communities. Space for home working and outdoor space has become essential for the health and well-being of both individuals and families and housing shouldn’t be built in isolation from the environment. Community-led housing can support the building of homes that are fit for multiple purposes, which is why it’s important to have a strong organisational and governance structure for your community-led housing group, ensuring objectives are met
We understand that now is a difficult time, with economical and financial constraints, proposed changes to the planning system, and limitations on meeting people face to face. It is important however for community-led housing groups to keep pushing forward with their work to demonstrate resilience and a community focus. Community-led housing can be key to bringing communities together and working together to solve local housing issues.
Recruiting the right people
Having the right people in your community-led housing group and on your board is essential in providing your organisation and projects with clear direction and guidance. They will drive your projects forward and make sure that you’re meeting your aims and objectives and genuinely involving the community; a culture of continuous improvement should be embedded
When looking for new board members, consider what skills you want from them, which could include:
- Enthusiastic and ‘can do’ attitude
- Experience in areas such as housing, finance, planning, design, law and governance
It’s important for your board to have a wide range of skills and experience, as well as members who are committed to making decisions that are in the best interests of your organisation. Also key is ensuring that you recruit the right number of people – this enables the tasks to be delegated evenly and reduces the risk of board members becoming ‘burned out’. The value of lived experience of individuals should not be underestimated. It is important that new board members are given an induction to ensure they understand their role on the board and the organisation they are governing.
Retaining key board members is more effective than having a continuing need to recruit so it’s important to keep the attention of your board. You can do this through ensuring that your project is moving forward and that actions are being progressed. Your community will benefit from hearing about the successful activities of your community-led housing group and project and will encourage greater engagement with you.
Sometimes however, it is inevitable that board members will no longer be able to dedicate their time and skills to your community led housing organisation. Developing a solid succession plan is therefore very important. You will need to make sure that if board members resign that your community-led housing organisation remains quorate so that decisions can be made and your projects aren’t stalled. You also want to ensure that you still have a good mix of skills amongst your board and that you plan for recruiting new members. A regular audit of skills and experience is a good way to find out what skills and experience need developing on your board, there are many different templates available online, here is just one example: – Reach Volunteering Skills Audit .
Recruiting new board members
Despite the restrictions in place as a result of the pandemic, there are still effective ways of advertising and recruiting for board members. Let your members and communities know the importance of your community-led housing organisation in delivering much needed affordable homes. Ways that you can advertise for board vacancies include:
Your website – Ensure your website it informative, appealing and up to date. Provide details of your current board members and shout about what your organisation is there to do and what you’re good at. Include a list of Frequently Asked Questions for prospective board members to be able to find out more about what being involved actually means.
Social media – Use social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to share information about your organisation, advertise and promote why members of your community should join your board. Make sure that you link your website too so that prospective applicants can find out more information about your community led housing organisation and what you do.
Local media – Providing details of any recruitment drives that you are undertaking to local press, in times like these they are likely to want to hear good news stories. You can also get your message out to a wider range of people and increase your chances of being able to recruit.
Word of mouth – Although you can’t hold large open meetings at the moment, you can still promote board vacancies through word of mouth. Try and identify anchor organisations or individuals within your community and ask them to spread the word about your organisation and what you’re looking for.
Wiltshire Together – This website is a free resource hub for anyone seeking information about events, activities and volunteering opportunities across Wiltshire. You can set up a profile for your organisation, explaining who you are and what you do and advertise your board vacancies here as well.
By recruiting the right board members, you can ensure that your community led housing organisation has strong foundations to secure it is run effectively and is stable in the long term. Good governance from the inception of a community led housing organisation is key and having the right people on board to navigate this will ensure that solid foundations are built. This will drive the organisation in the right direction from the outset and reduce the risk of poor organisational management and ineffective conflict resolution.
If you have any queries in relation to forming or managing your community led housing group, please get in touch.