One of the benefits to membership in an association is to have influence on the field, to help set direction and have your voice heard. Before I was sitting in this CEO chair, I'm not sure I recognized it as clearly as I do now. Even though I was very involved as a volunteer in PATH Intl., I'm not sure I realized at the time that my membership in PATH Intl. was providing the opportunity for my voice to be heard, for me to have an impact on setting standards and participating in the development and growth of the equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAAT) field. That oversight doesn't surprise me, since most of my time and focus were on running a therapeutic riding center and juggling all the competing priorities that come with that.
What got me thinking about this was an email I received from a member the other day. This member was expressing a concern that voting for the region representatives and board of trustees appeared to be just a rubber stamp since most nominees were running unopposed, thereby seemingly diminishing the value of her vote. This made me realize a couple of different things. First, it highlighted how members do value their vote, their opportunity to influence and be heard and they don't appreciate if it appears the vote doesn't have much meaning. Secondly, it made me think that perhaps more of the membership doesn't realize how nominees get on the ballot, and why each vote does count.
With regard to the region representatives, anyone who is nominated and meets basic criteria to be a region rep is placed on the ballot. We do often receive only one nomination per region. There is also the option to write in candidates.
As to the board nominations, potential nominees are vetted through an established process that includes serving on at least one committee prior to being nominated as well as bringing expertise that has been identified by the governance committee (made up of trustees and non-trustees) as being needed to lead the organization in the execution of the strategic plan. However, an individual could also be placed on the ballot if a nomination is submitted to the office in writing with the signature of at least 20 PATH Intl. voting members. We included this language in our bylaws in order to make sure that membership had a direct way to place someone on the ballot.
Your vote does count. In the case of someone running unopposed, if they were to receive a majority of no votes, they would not be elected.
There are many ways to influence PATH Intl. and the field of EAAT. Voting in every election, whether it is for the credentialing council, a new standard, bylaws changes or any other membership vote, is one of the primary ways to ensure that you have a voice in the decisions that affect you, your center and the greater EAAT field.