Chapter Succession Planning: Engage Your Volunteer Community
Chapters that have trouble finding and keeping competent board members put themselves in peril. They end up keeping the same old people in positions of power for way too long. Volunteers get burnt out. Other members get turned off by the exclusive “country club” power structure—the place where good ideas go to die.
Peggy Hoffman, President and Executive Director of Mariner Management, joined us for a webinar on chapter success planning. She identified three issues that need to be addressed if you wish to reenergize your chapters and improve succession planning. She also shared many strong ideas your association can implement to engage your chapter volunteer community.
Issue #1: The old volunteer model is still in operation—and it doesn’t work well.
The old volunteer model is focused on the top of the volunteer pyramid—the titled positions. This model is focused on what we (the association) needs:
“We need a chapter president. We need a membership committee chair.”
We need to flip the model and turn the focus upside down to look at the bottom of the pyramid. What do volunteers want? How do they want to engage?
How do you start?
Put on your coaching hat—a hat you probably should wear most of the time. Coach your chapters on the steps they need to take to develop a new volunteer model and bring in fresh faces.
Start from solid ground: what we know from the research on volunteering, for example, why people don’t get involved in their chapter or association:
- Lack of information about opportunities to volunteer
- Conflict with other volunteering activity
- Never asked to volunteer
- Lack of virtual volunteering opportunities
- Lack of short-term assignments
Think about how you can help your chapters overcome these obstacles. Don’t worry and keep on reading because Peggy provides some ideas.
Flip the pyramid: focus on ad hoc and micro-volunteering.
Another research finding: 60% of volunteers want small, ad hoc jobs
60% is a huge group to bring into the bottom of the volunteer funnel or pyramid. If you can build more opportunities to bring members in this way, into small, ad hoc jobs, you can grow your pool of volunteers for jobs that are higher up the pyramid (or deeper into the funnel). Along the way, these members will develop skills and build deeper relationships with the chapter and with their fellow members.
Peggy said to pay attention to the volunteering language you use and the behavior you reward. She suggests using the word “teams” instead of “committees.” Many members won’t commit to a role on a committee, but they will commit to a role on a team. One word (committee) feels like a long-term, time-consuming commitment, the other feels more freeing.
Embrace ad hoc volunteering and micro-volunteering. Identify ways people can contribute in a more ad hoc manner. Recognize the volunteers who serve in this way. They may be making just as much of a contribution as some committee members but too often at annual events, the committee members are recognized but those who frequently contribute as ad hoc volunteers are not recognized.
Acknowledge and reward chapters who recruit and recognize ad hoc and micro-volunteers. In your chapter reports, do you ask how many members are doing some type of ad hoc or micro-volunteering? Do you ask how many microvolunteering opportunities chapters offer?
Help chapters recruit volunteers.
A page on the ISACA website says, “Meet Your Neighbors. Volunteer at Your Local Chapter” and explains why and how.
The Volunteering section of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ website lists the benefits of getting in involved with a local chapter.
The Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society emphasizes volunteering of all types on their website. In fact, they display a visual showing a continuum of volunteering, give members the opportunity to complete a volunteer profile and provide a list of volunteer opportunities, many of which are micro-volunteering.
How else can CRPs help their chapters?
Local Lists: keep a list of local/state volunteer opportunities to refer to members.
CAE Requirements: consider adding local volunteer service to your CAE requirements. With ASAE, you get a certain number of CAE credits from volunteering.
National Recruitment: take care in recruiting for national positions that you don’t poach local talent. Be conscientious about the impact of taking that volunteer’s time. Be a good partner, ask the chapter first.
Engagement: make it easy for members to invite others to volunteer, refer someone, or nominate someone for a particular role.
Issue #2: Volunteering is a drudge at the chapter level—if you do it the old way.
Members, not wanting to rock the boat, keep doing things the way they’ve always been done. Consequently, meetings suck the air out of the room, and suck the excitement out of the volunteer. Peggy says we need to make volunteering fun and enjoyable again.
Start by lightening the load for chapter volunteers. We’ve explored this before on our blog—how to decrease the time chapters spend on dues processing.
Provide coaching on creating dynamic meetings. Peggy suggests mixing up meeting venues. Hold them at places people want to visit.
For example, one of her groups, Maryland Recycling Network, held a board meeting at a Coca Cola plant because they wanted to go behind the scenes and see their recycling operations.
Chapters are graded on creating strategic plans, but can you also grade them on how they’re building their volunteer community? Succession planning involves making it look so enjoyable to be at the board (or committee or team) table that other members want to be at that table too.
Issue #3: Succession planning is a grind—if you do it the old way.
Peggy suggests shifting from succession planning to talent development, because that’s what it is. It’s not about putting together a slate. It’s about pulling together folks into a community—and she’s seen this strategy revitalize organizations.
Change the vernacular. Shift from “nominating committee” to “talent council.” Shift from “nominating committee chair” to “chief talent scout.” Recruit a team of scouts who connect people with all the different ways, big and small, they can get involved. Everyone involved in chapter leadership should be scouts.
How else can CRPs help their chapters?
- Be an active partner in recruiting members to serve on chapter boards. When you’re welcoming or onboarding a new member, or when you’re talking to a member at a show or conference, say to them: “Hey, have you looked at your local chapter? Have you looked at the leadership? Do you know the president? Can I make an introduction for you?”
- Ask a national board or committee member completing their term to consider serving at the local level.
- Ask national leaders to recruit colleagues or employees in their companies to sit on chapter boards. They could make it part of their professional development plan.
- Make a personal introduction of a potential leader to a current chapter leader. Be a matchmaker, especially at national conferences.
Make volunteering more compelling. Don’t talk about the titles that need filling, instead talk about the opportunity for them to be part of a really vibrant community. Can you help chapter leaders think about the excitement that a volunteer role produces in their lives—something they can share with others? One of Peggy’s groups created short videos in which volunteers answered questions about the value and impact of volunteering in their lives.
Help chapter leaders practice “the ask.” Teach members how to frame the conversation about volunteering, how to invite someone to volunteer, and how to follow up on that conversation. Peggy suggests finding out what a member is interested in, what they like doing, and which chapter activities are important to them. Then, match their interests to a volunteering opportunity.
The blossoming of a new chapter volunteer
Peggy follows this process with new volunteers:
- Engage the member and bring them into the chapter community.
- Connect them to a person, resource, or activity.
- Orient them to what they need to know to be successful in their new role. Help them set goals. Establish expectations and metrics for success.
- Monitor their work. Check in with them, give them gentle reminders, and keep them in the loop.
- Mentor and coach volunteers in new roles.
- Recognize and reward them appropriately.
- Give and get feedback.
If chapter succession planning is a challenge, shift your focus. Engage your volunteer community, develop their talent, and watch them blossom.