Private Member Associations 

October 26, 2022

The chances that you have interacted and engaged in some shape or form with a Private Member Association are high. While you might not be familiar with the term, let's take a moment to point out a few associations you might have been part of. Are you a member of a gym or a country club? If you reflect on your college days, were you once part of Greek life? Maybe you are now a member of a specific social club. Regardless of the particular organizations that come to mind, one thing is clear: Private Member Associations, otherwise known as PMAs, are more common than we think.  

With all of this in mind, you might still wonder, "what exactly is a PMA?" Simply put, a Private Member Association is a group of men and women that have chosen to associate in support of a particular activity or interest. Joining these associations as a member requires an invitation based on preset criteria and is typically granted by the board. Individuals can receive admission and remain members or work up to holding board positions, usually through board elections–but we'll cover the how-tos shortly. 

Now, you might wonder, what sets a Private Member Association apart from a typical club or organization open to the public? The answer to this is the fact that it is private. The U.S. Constitution grants American citizens the right to "freedom of association." Under this right, individuals can create and partake in private organizations that are free from the jurisdiction of local, state, and federal governments. No rule requires permission ahead of the creation of these associations. If a group wishes to create an association, it may do so. And whereas public organizations are held to public law, PMAs are free from government interference. They are responsible for regulating themselves and can establish their own rules as long as there is no apparent threat or danger to society. 

What Positions Are on a PMA Board? 

Now that you have a more thorough understanding of a Private Member Association and its concept, let's dive deeper into what comprises the board and the election process. But before we discuss what a board member does and how elections take place, it's essential to know what positions individuals can hold. 

A well-functioning Private Member Association has a board elected by its members. This creates fairness and ensures that each voice is heard and represented. There are typically four roles on the board: Chair or President, Vice Chair or Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Let's break down the overall roles of each one. 

The Chair or President is the individual responsible for overseeing the entire organization and the board as a whole. In laypeople's terms, this person is seen as the association's leader. 

The Vice-Chair or Vice President is a vital role. This person is responsible for completing and overseeing any tasks as assigned by the Chair or President and is also the one who covers for any absences of the board chair. 

The Secretary plays a critical role in an association as the person in charge of handling all administrative matters. And finally, the Treasurer is responsible for keeping track of the association's finances and ensuring that the budget is not being exceeded. 

While there are other roles that a Private Member Association might choose to hold and fill, these are the primary core positions usually elected on a board in an organization. 

How Are Board Members Chosen? 

The most important question yet: how are board members chosen? Through elections! As we have all come to know throughout our lives, elections can be quick, but they can also be painfully long. Both of these depend on many variables, including the association's size and how many members are running for open positions. But regardless of these logistics, the election process should be straightforward, easy for its members, and, above all, fair. 

Typically, members will announce their run for a position and speak to the rest of the association about their decision to run and why they would excel in the role. It is then up to the rest of the organization to vote and elect the best-fitting candidate. 

But how can an association hold a direct, straightforward, and fair election? It is up to the association to decide which voting method is the most suitable. There are incredible options that make casting votes efficient and more accessible for the members. One is Electionbuddy, a resource that offers ranked ballots, approval voting methods, and scored voting, among many other options. 

Regardless of the voting method chosen, one thing stands true: holding an election that is quick, efficient, and easy to navigate ensures that members can focus on what matters most: electing the right person for the role. 

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