Explore Creating an Executive Board

This is Part 4 of my 5-part series giving details about my campaign platform for running for President-Elect of the American Academy of Sports Physical Therapy. Voting opens April 1, 2021 and I would greatly appreciate your support.

When I first joined the AASPT Executive Committee as the Representative at Large two years ago, I started exploring the ways that our Academy could be better organized for success. I have a family member who is the executive director of a professional association not related to physical therapy, so I was running some ideas by her. We ended up with an interesting exchange:

Me: So you keep saying “Executive Committee” and “Executive Board” as if they are two separate things.
Her: They are.
Me: I don’t understand. In the AASPT, we use the terms interchangeably.
Her: Ok. Now *I* don’t understand. How does your Executive Committee function without an Executive Board?

And this started my education on the differences between these two types of entities and convinced me that our Academy should explore this idea.

Most professional associations have both an Executive Committee and an Executive Board (for example the Academy of Orthopaedic Physical Therapy is organized in this way). Typically, the Executive Committee is made up of your elected officers who meet on a regular basis to make day to day decisions about the business of the association. This is what the AASPT currently has.

An Executive Board is made up of the elected officers PLUS other representatives from within the association. These are often people who also serve in other positions (like committee chairs and/or leaders of special interest groups) but may include one or more “at large” positions. Their role is to meet less frequently to oversee and/or advise the Executive Committee.

What is wrong with just having an Executive Committee?

Currently the Executive Committee is in charge of all decisions for the Academy. They meet regularly and have in depth conversations about these decisions. If the decisions were easy, well, we probably wouldn’t really need much of an Executive Committee. Most decisions are complex, requiring considerations of scope, budget, mission, member preferences, liability, etc.

As I said, it is the role of the Executive Committee to make these decisions – it is what they are elected to do. Trying to run every decision by the entire membership through a referendum-like process typically results in voter fatigue and low voter turnout. There is a reason we vote for people to lead us.

But this often forces an Executive Committee to operate a little bit in the dark. Sure, they can reach out to get feedback from individual members, but often the content is too sensitive to share in such an informal manner. The other issue is that this leads to the Executive Committee only consulting with people whom they personally trust which may not be a great representation of the membership as a whole.

How would an Executive Board fit into this?

We would start with the same situation that I just described, with the Executive Committee meeting regularly and having nuanced, private conversations. But an Executive Board can provide the opportunity to get some broader feedback through a more formal process.

In this new situation, the Executive Committee would meet once a year (or as otherwise needed) with the Executive Board. The entire decision-making process would be laid out for the Executive Board to review on an annual basis and discuss in the presence of the Executive Committee (remember, the Executive Committee is also part of the Executive Board).

How is this helpful?

As I mentioned, most decisions are complicated, nuanced, and extremely difficult. This is why it takes an Executive Committee many many meetings to deliberate. In this situation, the Executive Committee would get the chance to lay out the process that they took for additional review. They must plead the case to the entire Executive Board. I think that this feedback would be extremely valuable.

Would the Executive Board have to approve the decisions of the Executive Committee?

This is where it gets tricky, and I admit that I don’t have all the answers. Some associations make it so that the Executive Board is the actual deciding body. Others see them only as advisors.

Often it is a hybrid.


An example would be having the Executive Board advise and comment on all decisions before they are made, but only have voting power when it comes to changes to the bylaws (changes to the bylaws currently require a vote from the membership without any real deliberation).

Or they may have to vote to approve the annual budget. Or vote on the 5-Year Strategic Plan. Or any number of other options. As I have said, I want to explore these opportunities to expand these conversations beyond the Executive Committee. But I don’t have a perfect answer at this time.

Who would make up an AASPT Executive Board?

As I mentioned, the entire Executive Committee would also be members of the Board as the directly elected representatives. Thinking out loud here I could see representation from major committees such as Practice, Research, and Education. I could also see having representation from DEI and ECP. Maybe a couple SIG chairs. Depending on the voting power bestowed to the Executive Board, there could also be a couple non-voting members who could “be in the room”.

When would they meet?

An annual meeting would be appropriate to have these conversations. This could be at CSM or AMSC. Or at an annual strategic planning meeting dedicated just to this process. Again, this would be explored further to see what would best serve our specific needs.

Questions/comments about the AASPT creating an Executive Board? Contact me!

Look for my post next week when I will discuss embracing the tenets of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.