Skip to main content
Organizational Management

How to Build a Healthcare Association Board: 8 Qualities of Top Directors!

Author: Marlena Moore
November 6, 2023
🕑 8 min read

Every association needs a board of directors to guide the growth and wellness of the organization. And depending on the type of association you’re running, your ideal directors will look a little bit different. Here’s an in-depth look on what to search for as you build your healthcare association board!

What Does a Healthcare Association Board Do?

Your health association board of directors operates with a few key board responsibilities:

  • Strategic planning. In a 2020 study from NonprofitPro, “86% of respondents said that having a strategic plan had a positive impact on generating revenue through grants, donors, events, etc.” Your board of directors plays a key role in overseeing the development and execution of this plan.
  • Fundraising. Your healthcare association board helps fundraise by tugging on their network connections, leveraging their voice in the industry, strategizing with your team, attending events, donating and more! 
  • Legal compliance and risk management. For tax-exempt organizations, staying legally compliant is essential to being allowed to continue operating! Your board should help you keep on top of federal, state and local laws, as well as make sure your tax forms are up to date. They should also have a plan for situations like data breaches.
  • Growing your healthcare association’s network. Board of directors positions are best filled by people who are deeply involved (and invested!) in your industry—and have the means to make fresh connections. For example, if one of your directors is a leader in patient advocacy, they could introduce your organization to activists for medical equality.
  • Financial review. Budgets, financial statements, cash flow and large expenses for new programs should all be overseen by your board. Not everyone has to be a financial expert (though it’s a great quality in a treasurer!), but they should know how to read and interpret financial statements.
  • Enforcing Policies & Procedures and healthcare association bylaws. Your board’s decisions will ultimately be guided by their bylaws, and it’s their job to stay compliant! Policies and Procedures, on the other hand, are more of a guide for your organization’s volunteers. Your board is responsible for resolving any cases of conflict or confusion.
  • Hiring (and supporting!) the executive director. From conducting an organizational assessment to selecting a director to running annual evaluations, your board holds the executive director accountable throughout the year. Plus, they offer the guidance necessary for the director to do their job effectively!
  • Recruiting and training new board members. Most board members will eventually move on from their positions, and their parting gift to your organizing is finding and training new members. A smooth transition is the best transition!

All of these responsibilities are enacted during regular board meetings, where items are discussed and voted on. In case of an unexpected change or event, you can also hold emergency board meetings.

Click through to claim your 60-day trial of WildApricot to create effective QR codes that will speed up event check-in.

8 Top Qualities of a Healthcare Association’s Board of Directors

Now that you know what your healthcare association board does, you might be wondering: what makes a great director?

While each position benefits from different skills and talents, there are a few qualities that signal someone might be a great board members:

  • Passion for their field. For some people, a job is just a job—and that’s perfectly fine! However, those folks won’t make for your strongest board members. Candidates who are active in the industry will have much more to bring to your healthcare association.
  • Connectedness. Your board of directors is as strong as its network. If there is a niche segment you want your association to connect with, look for board members that have relationships. For example, an art therapist could offer a valuable perspective for your association of addiction counselors.
  • Knowledgeability. Who are the top scholars in your industry? Look for the publishers of top medical journals, the keynote speakers at med schools and the star panelists at conferences. Their knowledge is your knowledge!
  • Experience. Academic knowledge isn’t the only valuable quality in a board member—nothing is a better teacher than real world experience. Board members who have done and seen it all can offer perspectives that you might never have considered!
  • Communication skills. Like we said, almost all of the board’s responsibilities show up during board meetings. Board members who can speak openly, thoughtfully and respectfully will get the most done in the long run.
  • Spirit of collaboration. Your health association’s board of directors are meant to work as a team. Passion is great, but be cautious of prospective directors who might dominate the conversation.
  • Diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Board diversity is absolutely essential, especially when it comes to healthcare associations. The medical field has a history of deep-rooted racial discrimination, as well as discrimination based on other marginalizations. Having diverse voices at the very top is essential to guiding your association in the direction of equality.
  • Eagerness to lead. No matter how well intentioned your directors are, a sleepy board won’t get you far. Look for candidates who approach the position with fresh ideas and excitement!

5 Board of Directors Positions for Healthcare Associations

Here are the 5 most common board positions for health associations, and a look at their responsibilities:


Sometimes called the President, your association’s Chair is the leader of your board of directors, and has responsibilities including:

  • Setting goals for the board
  • Leading board meetings
  • Assigning roles and creating committees
  • Evaluating and working closely with the executive officer
  • Holding board members accountable to their roles

Look for candidates who have served on previous boards before, and have long time industry knowledge. Expertise in the field is important for all board members, but a deep understanding of how a health association board is meant to operate is essential for a Chair!

Vice Chair

Also known as the Vice President, the Vice Chair is your Chairperson’s top support on the board of directors. Someone who has a passion for the industry and is still building experience as a board member is a top choice for this position.

The responsibilities of a Vice Chair include:

  • Acting as Chair when needed
  • Working closely with the Chair on special assignments
  • Supporting HR for hiring
  • Performing special assignments from the Chair

Up-and-coming members of your industry are ideal for this role. By working closely with experienced Chairs, they can become the leaders of the future. In fact, if your Chair steps back at the end of their step, the Vice Chair might even be ready to step into the role!


Your health association board’s Secretary is the keeper of key records and documents, and keeps your board compliant with bylaws. If someone is scratching their head about information for their last board meeting, the Secretary is sure to have it!

Their responsibilities include:

  • Scheduling the regular board meetings
  • Taking accurate and compliant board meeting minutes
  • Keeping board member contact information up-to-date
  • Overseeing membership lists
  • Orienting new board members

Healthcare administrators are ideal for filling this role. Above all, the Secretary must be organized, so experience with record-keeping is a real perk!


Your association’s Treasurer should be your financial expert. Knowledge of the ins and outs of association finances and taxes is a must-have.

The Treasurer’s responsibilities typically include:

  • Leading discussions around spending
  • Creating and adjusting the budget
  • Heading a financial committee
  • Managing and filing taxes
  • Conducting and reviewing annual audits
  • Working with the bank and board’s financial statements
  • Advising on major financial decisions

Healthcare financial experts, philanthropists and accountants are great options for this role. Better yet, someone who has already served as a board Treasurer before can offer key insights if your association is still up-and-coming!

Board Members At-Large

Board Members At-Large have the same standard rights and responsibilities of the rest of the directors, and participate in regular discussions and votes. While they don’t have official titles, they are still essential members of your board! These people often end up leading your healthcare association board’s committees.

Your Members At-Large could be:

  • Healthcare professionals
  • Healthcare administrators
  • Community leaders
  • Philanthropists
  • Activists and visionaries

Having a combination of retired executives and rising industry professionals can help you utilize past industry experience with future growth.

How to Start Your Healthcare Association Board in 8 Steps

Okay—so we’ve got a list of board member positions, responsibilities and top qualities! Now, let’s break down the steps in starting your healthcare association board.

  1. Make a timeline. Forming your board is one of the first few steps in starting a nonprofit association. With your association’s mission, vision and values set (plus a rough business plan!), your board supports you through the steps needed to incorporate. Keep an eye on key paperwork deadlines as you make your hiring workback plan.
  2. Determine board structure. How many positions do you want? Which positions do you think are most necessary? Look into your state’s requirements—for example, Texas nonprofits must have at least three members, with two being President and Secretary.
  3. Set term limits. Most terms are 2-5 years, but again, state requirements might vary. Also, consider staggering your terms! This can help you avoid the administrative chaos of full board turnover.
  4. Brainstorm great board members. Make a great big list of people who might be great board members, and then rank your favorites. Be sure that your candidates include a wide variety of experiences and perspectives!
  5. Reach out to prospective members and get feedback. Bring your business plan to prospective members and see if you get any bites. Even if people aren’t available to become board members, ask for some feedback on your pitch so you can make any adjustments that might make the proposal more appealing!
  6. Explore ideas for committees. Committees can grow over time, but if there are any that might be beneficial from the start, it’s great to establish them early. Once you’ve chosen committees, have your Chair determine who will lead them.
  7. Hire and onboard your new directors. It’s onboarding time! Collaborate with your Chair and Secretary in particular on what’s needed for hiring, and make sure your board has all the resources they need.
  8. Schedule and hold your first board meeting. It’s time to launch—have your Chair and Secretary draft the board meeting agenda and send out that invitation. Keep in mind, your first meeting will largely be for tasks like approving bylaws and setting up the financials.

Supporting Your Health Association Board of Directors

Once your healthcare association board of directors is hired and all set up, everything is a matter of maintenance. With regular board meetings and open communication, your healthcare association board can kick off being the support your organization needs to thrive. 

Psst—looking for a way to organize your association’s communications for your board, staff and members? WildApricot’s member management software can manage your administrative tasks and more.

Make your Secretary’s day by signing up for our 60-day free trial today!

Start a free trial of WildApricot today. Click here

The Membership Growth Report:

Benchmarks & Insights for Growing Revenue and Constituents

Get the report now!