Food for Thought

by Abigail Solazzo

This snow is still on the ground and a chill remains in the air, but February is the time to start thinking about summer. Specifically, how we can begin to prepare the incoming volunteers and hand over the reins starting in June. This is a critical point for our incoming volunteers, as they will need to be prepared to hit the ground running and implement their strategic plan, in order to achieve their goals during their term. In order to prepare incoming officers, consider taking the necessary steps to help ensure their success.

  • Board Orientation - Chapters should be in the practice of conducting a board orientation each year. There are many ways to conduct the orientation that meet the needs of your new volunteers. Orientation can be conducted virtually if it's difficult to meet face to face. It also doesn't need to take a lot of time if you ask the participants to review materials ahead of time. To ensure you cover important practices and resources, refer to the orientation checklist available on ANFPConnect, under Volunteer Resources, in Board Governance.
  • One on One/Face to Face Meeting - If you're not able to hold an orientation with all board members, consider meeting one on one with the incoming chapter leaders. Ideally, this meeting would take place in addition to orientation, but we know that's not always possible. Take this opportunity to meet in person (if feasible) and share your experiences and best practices for the role they will be taking over. 
  • Setting Goals - When training the incoming officer, ensure they have goals in place for their term. Take time to review these goals and the strategic plan. Look at what needs to be completed or implemented and when, so the new volunteer can stay on track and continue progress toward achieving their goals while in office. 
  • Team Building - While the hands-on training and knowledge-sharing are crucial parts of orientation, it is also important that new chapter leaders are able to build a rapport with one another and establish a positive and supportive culture among incoming, current, and outgoing board members. Conducting a team building activity is a great way to start this process. 
  • Seeking Out Their Replacements - Perhaps one of the most important lessons or best practices a new chapter leader can share is the importance of building their succession plan. This starts with current officers seeking out their own replacements. It may seem early to begin to think about successors, but the earlier they are identified, the earlier they can be brought into the fold and are therefore better prepared to take on their role when their term begins. 
  • Volunteer Watch List - Begin to build a list of individuals that show interest in helping out that can be called upon when needed for small, one-off jobs. Additionally, begin to keep a list of potential members that may be well suited for the longer-term leadership roles. This can be used as a source of support for chapter leaders as well as help make succession planning easier when the need arises.