How to Recruit and Manage Your Board: Key Tips for Excellent DMO Governance

This blog post was authored by Sophie Levy, Matt Clausen, and Mica Pacheco and is a summary of Week 3 and 4 in Solimar’s DMO Development Program happening in Georgia during the summer of 2020. The topics of these two weeks covered DMO Governance and Board Development. Check out the link above to learn more about what Solimar is doing to train DMOs all across the globe.

Arguably the most important aspect of a successful, world-class Destination Management Organization (DMO) is strong governance and leadership development. By implementing clear policies, systems, and processes, DMOs explicate responsibilities, ensure standard practices, and optimize the performance of the organization. As a catalyst for growth, DMOs should enlist the help of skillful board members that enthusiastically advocate on behalf of the organization’s mission, values, and purpose. In recognition of the importance of good governance and leadership development, Solimar dedicated the third and fourth weeks of its DMO Development Program to defining the roles of the DMO board and director and presenting strategies to effectively recruit and govern members of the Board.  

The following items are key documents your DMO to prepare for excellent governance and board management practices, explained in more detail below: 

  • Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
  • Job descriptions for your board, staff, volunteers, and officers
  • A responsibility and decision matrix 
  • Standard of ethics and conflict of interest policy
  • Board policy orientation document 
  • Board policy orientation presentation 

What is Governance and Why Do DMOs Need This? 

Governance comprises many key elements, including accountability, transparency, involvement, structure, effectiveness, and power. DMOs are obligated to justify and account for their programs and activities to earn trust and prove reliability with stakeholders. Candor and transparency in operations and communications builds trust with stakeholders by providing insight into the decision-making process. Inviting all stakeholders to participate in the DMOs activities and programs not only elevates inclusivity but also advances individual stakeholders’ investment in the organization. Defined organizational structure positions a DMO to effectively evaluate results that subsequently help them to reach their goals and objectives and clarify power dynamics to preserve leadership cooperation. By detailing governance, DMOs optimize how, who, why, and what they administer. 

Understanding the Purpose of the Governing Documents

By implementing a good set of governing documents, the DMO will be able to grow and provide an effective framework for all current and future officers and board members. These documents are not only meant to establish the organization as a legal entity, but they are also used to define the governance model and clearly explain how decisions will be made and by whom. There are two main documents that DMOs use to establish themselves- the Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws.

  • The Articles of Incorporation are a legal document filed with a government authority that legally establishes the organization
  • The Bylaws are a document that states how the organization will be governed.

Through these documents, the organizations will clearly define and state the roles, rules, and processes that are needed in the activities of the organization. Such rules should include clauses for conflict of interest policies, board nomination/elections processes, and board and staff evaluation policies. 

What is the Role of the DMO Director to Manage Your Board? 

The DMO Director serves as the catalyst to growth, organization, and productivity of the Board. While the Board is legally and ethically responsible for all activities of the organization, the DMO Director leads all daily decisions, establishes and executes short-term goals, and recommends best practices and strategies for long-term objectives. Board members have an array of responsibilities which include:

  • attaining a thorough understanding of the mission and values of the organization,
  • promoting its growth and development,
  • actively attending and contributing to Board meetings,
  • participating in and amplifying fundraising efforts,
  • familiarizing themselves on current tourism trends and concerns, and
  • upholding their commitment to conflict of interest and confidentiality policies.

The DMO Director serves as the supervisor and educator to Board members as they achieve all of these action items. In this way, the DMO Director advances the mission, values, and vision of the organization through exceptional leadership. Establishing clear job descriptions for each of these roles is critical to ensuring your board members understand their responsibilities, while creating a responsibility and decision matrix is an even better way to understand who in the organization has responsibilities for completing specific tasks.

Understanding the Importance of Establishing Clear Board Policies and Board Orientation 

The most critical of the early steps is setting clear expectations. The best way to do this is to develop a Board Policy Orientation document that the director provides to each new board member. This document states the mission and vision of the organization, policies (everything from recruiting new board members to smoking on the premises), and a wealth of other information new recruits will need to better understand his or her role within the DMO. You can develop performance expectation policies to make this clear to your board. 

Expectations of the Board should center around three responsibilities: 

  1. The duty of care to actively participate in decision-making with intentions to progress the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
  2. The duty of loyalty to reject personal biases or relationships and adhere to the best recommendations for the organization. 
  3. The duty of obedience to comply with local, regional, and national laws. 

By proactively setting these expectations, organizations produce high levels of support and passionate advocates within their Board and ensure effective team dynamics that is critical to the success of your organization. New board members will need to be introduced to the DMO’s mandate, strategy, and priorities, so it’s vital that the DMO Director prepare and deliver a presentation that summarizes the DMO’s role and focus in the destination. With conscientious policies, processes, expectations, and on-boarding, the DMO Director produces a foundation for success and progressive leadership. 

Tips for Recruiting and Electing Board Members 

When recruiting and electing board members, the DMO should focus on getting a variety of people from different sectors to create a board that can facilitate and effectively help with the myriad of issues and events that come forward in a given time. A DMO should look for people who are passionate about the region and will give the volunteer position the time and attention it requires. The DMO needs to make sure that the rules from the governing documents are laid out beforehand for full transparency (i.e. conflict of interest policies). This can be reinforced through evaluations of your board.

In summation, when creating a diverse board, the DMO should also focus on creating an open and inclusive environment where members of the board can speak their ideas truthfully and be given the attention their statements merit. 

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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