Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Brent Batchelor , Regional Program Leader for Agriculture and Natural Resources/4-H and Youth Development, Central Region, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
A leadership advisory board (LAB) is a fundamental element in every Extension program (Ripley, Cummings, Lockett, Pope, Wright, Payne, Kieth & Murphrey, 2011). Therefore, it is imperative to have the right people involved (Ripley et al., 2011).
Extension programming deserves to be strategically planned and advocated by community leaders who believe in it and are fully engaged in the process (Ripley et al., 2011). LABs have two primary functions (Ripley et al., 2011):
The importance of these functions makes it essential that we recruit highly qualified people to serve on the board and train them effectively (Ripley et al., 2011).
LABs are composed of 10 to 20 volunteer leaders, each serving a 3-year term (Ripley et al., 2011). Members should rotate off in staggered terms so that roughly one-third of the board is replaced annually, and do not need to be members of other Extension planning groups (Ripley et al., 2011).
Finding excellent members is essential to the board’s effectiveness, for example, they should be respected opinion leaders who recognize the important community issues and can influence other local leaders and elected officials (Ripley et al., 2011). Examples of potential Leadership Advisory Board Member include the following (Ripley et al., 2011):
Think about opinion leaders in your community that currently serve in these positions, and could potentially serve on your LAB.
Recruiting and recommending future LAB members can happen in two ways: through current LAB members and through Commissioner’s court members (Ripley et al., 2011). One successful Extension educator summarizes it this way (Ripley et al., 2011):
“Members on my [leadership advisory board] are qualified to serve due to their experience on substantive issues, respect given to them by professionals in the field, or their organizational, negotiation, or communication skills; are dependable; are able to accept responsibility; work well with others; and can abide by the decision of the majority.”
Worried that your ideal LAB members serve on too many other community committees?
Don’t worry. Every community has effective leaders, therefore, their involvement in other organizations should not deter Extension educators recruiting those individuals (Ripley et al., 2011). Busy people often make the best board members because they are likely to be extremely aware of the community’s needs and the general dynamics of the community (Ripley et al., 2011). Extension educators should discuss how a potential LAB members’ role on the board can have positive impacts on themselves and the community (Ripley et al., 2011).
Now that you have people to serve on your LAB, it is important they are trained. LAB members must be thoroughly trained to be effective in their role (Ripley et al., 2011). Do not assume they understand the agency and its mission (Ripley et al., 2011). Extension educators should provide members with the following information regarding Extension (Ripley et al., 2011):
In addition to the training orientation, the LAB should receive training and updates during regular meetings during the course of a year (Ripley et al., 2011). Examples include (Ripley et al., 2011):
This ongoing training not only keeps the board updated on trends and issues important to the county, but it could also could benefit the members personally or professionally (Ripley et al., 2011). For example, a member who finds the meetings beneficial will be more engaged with Extension, creating a stronger overall board (Ripley et al., 2011).
An LAB will strengthen county programs, however, LABs are only effective if it is: staffed effectively, a comprehensive orientation is provided, and all members are provided strategically planned ongoing training (Ripley et al., 2011).
Keep in mind, the members will become Extension’s most enthusiastic advocates in the community, and recruitment will take care of itself (Ripley et al., 2011). When opinion leaders see other opinion leaders participating in Extension programs, it becomes easier to get the next generation involved (Ripley et al., 2011).
An Extension educator must invest time, effort, and creativity to create a successful and self-sustaining system (Ripley et al., 2011). However, once the LAB is established, local programs and advocacy will succeed.
Ripley, J., Cummings, S, Lockett, L., Pope, P., Wright, M., Payne, M., Kieth, L., & Murphrey, T. (2011). Creating Excellent Programs. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Publication. E-345. Retrieved from http://agrilifecdn.tamu.edu/od/files/2010/03/E345.pdf