Perhaps you are the Volunteer Leader of a pretty prominent trade association. Lets say your organization services people who operate hot air balloons. I recognize its both a random and odd choice as an example but indulge this scenario:
Your Executive Director just put in their notice because he/ she just accepted a new position with a larger organization. To add insult to injury, they are taking their entire team with them. Now you are a Volunteer Leader of a staffless organization.Its a pretty scary but realistic thought. You and your board are now looking for a roadmap to get your organization back to where it needs to be.
Naturally your best course of action is to hire a firm like Association Industry Matters (AIM) but thankfully there are some quick step guides to help you get things back on track.
- Start from the top. Every good association team has an EVP/CEO and then perhaps a Membership Director, Marketing Director, Events Coordinator, Professional Development Manger and so on. The best thing to do is to hire your EVP/CEO.
- Here’s what you should NOT do, hire an insider. The biggest mistake volunteer boards make are hiring friends who may/ may not possess some skills that may be transferable to association management. An even bigger mistake is hiring a tradesman to take on the CEO role. I can not spell this out any simply, just because you know how to fly a hot air balloon does not make you qualified to run the hot air balloon association. Allow me to go one step further, hiring an insider WILL doom your organization.
- Clearly the best replacement for this role would be an individual with a =n association pedigree. Maybe someone with association credentials, such as a CAE (Certified Association Executive). Maybe someone who has run an association or has some sort of business acumen.
- Once the search committee agrees on this individual, you should allow them to dictate who they’d like to bring on as staff members. Most search committees balk at this idea as it gives a lot of control to a person who was just appointed to the new Executive level position. The general line of thinking is “how can they possibly know what staff is needed for this hot air balloon. After all, I’ve been a board member for 10 years now and I know exactly hat kind of person should fill these important roles.” This is faulty thinking. I would actually say that a new Executive coming in and hiring their entire time is a far better exercise then a scenario where a new executive is integrated in to a co-existing association staff. here is why: A. Co-Existing staffs don’t like change, don’t like new comers and are often uneasy about their professional futures when there is new management. You also run the risk that their is friction because a current association staff member was over looked for the Executive level possession and may harbor some bad feelings. Bad for team cohesiveness. B. Hiring a new Executive with a Rolodex of talented people they can bring a long demonstrates they have a network of people who respect them and the probability that this new association team will come together with everyone understanding their roles.
Building your new staff is a slippery slope but Volunteer leaders must understand their roles. Although this new executive works at the discretion of the board, this board must weigh the experiences and knowledge that comes with hiring a complete Association executive.