By AFWA Manager of Marketing and Brand Management, Debi Williams
We’ve all seen this happen. A dedicated Board Member serves her time for many years, making her way through the organization’s leadership pipeline. She finishes her term as President, engages a little as the Immediate Past President, and then you never hear from her again. Not only does this create a void of advisory council, it can damage morale of current board members who are working hard to grow the organization.
First let’s talk about why this happens:
- Burn out: Volunteering on a Board for a number of years requires a lot of time and energy. Often, after a Board Member has served her time, she’s ready to move on. Not for a lack of interest in the organization, but because she’s given all she has to give and she now wants to focus her free time on family, other organizations, a new job, or hobbies.
- Feeling unappreciated: It’s a fine line to walk between leading change and leaving your own mark on an organization, while respecting the work of those leaders who have come before you. When past leaders see their own work pushed to the side, changed, or even ignored, they can feel unappreciated and unwanted.
Now let’s talk about how you can prevent it
- Organize a Past President’s Council: A Past President’s Council is a great way to stay connected with the past leadership of your organization and collect their advice. Organize a meeting with your Past Presidents a few times a year to brief them on the current happenings and plans in the works for you group. Open the floor and hear out their comments, direction, and experiences. Depending on how involved your Past President’s Council wants to be, you may even offer them an annual project or assignment.
- Nominate past leaders for awards or higher positions: Recognition and leadership within an organization doesn’t have to stop at the Chapter level. Encourage your past Chapter leaders to apply for volunteer roles within regional or national levels of the organization. Also consider nominating your Chapter Leaders for awards and recognition. Many organizations host award competitions recognizing volunteers, professional excellence, leadership and more.
- Mentor programs: An organized mentor program is a benefit to all your members. Younger members benefit from the advice of experienced members, and experienced members are fulfilled by passing down their knowledge. Your organization’s past leadership will represent varying levels of career. Regardless of their years in an industry, they have achieved great levels of leadership experience simply through volunteering in your organization. A mentor program offers a platform for them to share their experience with others.
And finally, why should this matter for your organization
- Passion: Past leadership brings a certain level of passion to your organization’s environment. They are the icebreakers at networking events, participants in Q&A’s, and knowledgeable of the ins and outs of operations. These members know what it takes for your organization to grow and succeed, and to some level they are committed to seeing that happen.
- Diversity: Some members enter leadership as young professionals with vast careers ahead of them. Others become leaders once employers push them to grow outside their current position. And some volunteer their time as their career and family commitments are winding down. Regardless, your board and past leadership should represent all levels of career, which is important to the membership diversity of any organization.
- Longevity: As much as we want our organizations to evolve and grow, we must build on the establishment which has been set for us. Past leaders do more than fill seats at events, they represent where an organization has been, and their presence shows support for where an organization is going.
So this year, as you bid farewell to your parting leaders, thank them and recognize them for their service, encourage them to stay engaged, and most of all, show them the organization has been left in good hands.