I have been hesitating over this post, wondering what to include, but now that my fellow Quaker Alphabet blogger Rhiannon has written her piece this week on Nominations I can content myself with recounting my own experience and filling in some gaps!
Rhiannon has never been on a nominations committee - I have been on rather a lot and of different kinds. I have helped to look for nominations for various jobs at Local and Area Meeting level, for elders and overseers, for Yearly Meeting appointments and for particular Quaker groups.
In some ways the nominating experience is the same and in other ways it changes with circumstances. The most important task of a nominating committee is to discern who might be the right person to ask to undertake a piece of work. This is not necessarily the same as looking for someone who already has the right skill-set or who has done the same sort of job before. Discernment is about looking for possibilities in a person, for their 'qualifications' for the role which may be more to do with their personality or life-experience than with their professional or academic standing. From the other side of the fence I know that I might not have been the person I would have nominated to do some of the things I have been asked to do by Friends but I also know that I have (usually) been surprised by what I have discovered about myself and others by doing them.
Of course this kind of discernment is easier when the nominations committee knows the people it is asking well. When this is not the case, as often in a larger group such as a whole Yearly Meeting, then of course it is necessary to ask people to say what their experience and interests are and Britain Yearly Meeting has a system of 'yellow forms' for this purpose. I do have a small stop in my mind about these forms however, in case nominations committees feel that they can only nominate those who have filled in forms or only to those jobs which follow the 'applicant's' experience and wishes to the letter. I am afraid that I have still never filled in a yellow form myself!
Being on a nominations committee can be interesting and exhilarating, but it can also be depressing and frustrating. The depressing side comes from the frequent refusals (often for perfectly valid reasons) that one hears. Frustration, in my experience, comes from a lack of understanding of the nominations process. Nominations committees do not appoint, they only nominate to the meeting that has directed them to find names. I have lost count of the times that Friends have assumed that having been asked they are appointed and if they are not then appointed vent their frustration on the nominations committee!
In the end both nominating and accepting nomination are about service and we can all only do the best we can with God's help. After all as Beatrice Saxon Snell reminds us (QF&P 12.08) 'My dear, we have to take what we can get.'