May 23, 2014
This past week, I attended the New York Society of Association Executives’ (NYSAE) Executive Women in Nonprofits Shared Interest Group and we discussed the big issues that keep us up at night and how we can address them. Working with volunteers can be one of the best parts of association management as an industry, but it can cause some headaches. Here are some volunteer issues you may have encountered:
Every organization has at least one. That volunteer that goes rogue. He or she has his or her own agenda and will stop at nothing to get it accomplished, even if it’s not right for the organization as a whole. How do you address?
- Be sure to have a strategic plan in place with overarching goals. This depersonalizes any confrontation. Any program initiated would have to be in line with the overall goals of the organization.
- Preempt conflicts. If the person is a vocal Board member, have your President have a call with the individual in advance of any meetings to ensure that there will not be any disruptions. They will feel that their voice is heard and hopefully won’t lob any surprises in front of a group.
- Always have Board members submit items they want to discuss in advance of the Board meeting. Only those items will be discussed, which helps keep the conversation on track.
- Be explicit about how your volunteers can represent your organization. A rogue volunteer can sometimes act outside of their authority, and later claim ignorance. “I was being proactive!” Your Board should know that unless your bylaws state so, they are not authorized to do things like sign contracts, develop partnerships or make statements on behalf of your association without coordinating with the full Board/staff.
The goal of the nominations process is to select strong leaders who will propel your organization forward. Sometimes… that just doesn’t happen. Occasionally, a Chair of a committee or even President of the Board can disappoint you. Maybe they are unable to lead a meeting, or maybe they get so distracted by every new idea, they can’t accomplish anything. How can you help?
- Support and bolster your leader. Before meetings, prepare notes and help him or her to “parking lot” items that should be discussed offline in a smaller group. Review any “hot button” issues ahead of time so they make sure the meeting doesn’t get off track.
- Have regular one-on-one check-ins with your leaders. Touch base about what is troubling them on the Board or committee, and try to show them how their role fits into the big picture of your group.
- If all else fails, recommend a coach. Some people can greatly benefit from leadership coaches and can develop the confidence to lead.
How do you deal with these situations? More on working with volunteers:
- Building a Strong Relationship with Your President
- How to Avoid Dysfunction in the Board Room
- Three Simple Tips For Recruiting More Volunteers for Your Association
- Tell Your Members How Much You Appreciate Them