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Preparing Your Volunteer Leaders to Deliver Value

Posted By Shannon Pfarr Thompson, CAE, MPA, Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, December 30, 2014
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Everyone knows it is good practice to orient new board members. Annual new board member orientation sessions have become commonplace for the good reason that by getting new board members up to speed, they start off ready to succeed for your organization. Reviewing items such as the bylaws, policies and procedures, staff and board relationship, and other key items provides new board members with the tools and comfort level they need.

However, organizations often overlook training for their other volunteer leaders. Committee, special interest group (SIG), chapter and task force leaders are appointed by boards to implement important work for the organization, but frequently they are thrown into their roles without much guidance or training. This can lead to frustration and less-than-stellar results.

This year, one of the organizations I lead began biannual orientation sessions for new leaders, and I’ve been impressed with the difference it has made. The president and staff developed an agenda that takes volunteers through the most important aspects of the organization, divided up the list to best address each item, and then presented it via a webinar.

Using webinar technology allowed us to show organizational documents, demonstrate where leaders can find valuable information on the association’s website and also how to use the private part of the website specific to their committee, chapter or SIG. We had a chat available for questions during the meeting.

Here are some of the key things we included in our new leader orientation:

  • Organizational info – the tax status and what it means, the articles of incorporation, bylaws and policies and how they all relate
  • Key board and staff contacts – where leaders get support and who they should go to with questions
  • Important meetings – so leaders may plan ahead and see how these meetings benefit them
  • Financial policies – how their group fits into the budget and how to request funds
  • Communication tools – how to share information with their group, the board, and all members
  • Their responsibilities – to be a strategic leader, to consider leadership succession, to serve as an ambassador to members

By the end of the second orientation (after honing the original agenda), we found that leaders’ questions had been answered and they felt much more comfortable in their new roles as volunteer leaders. We hope it will also result in lower volunteer turnover and an enhanced willingness to step forward because leaders feel more supported. A small time investment has ended up providing a large benefit to our organization because we have volunteer leaders who understand their role, how it fits within the larger picture of the association’s activities, and they have the information and tools needed to hit the ground running. We look forward to the great results that these informed leaders and their teams will produce for our members!

Tags:  delivering value  ewald consulting  leadership  shannon thompson  volunteer 

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