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Exceed expectations when onboarding your volunteer leaders

exceed expectations


Here are some tips on how to put your best foot forward with your volunteer leaders and give them what they need to lead so you have what you need to manage.

1. Understand the role, personality, and communication style of each leader.
Do your volunteer leaders have a clear understanding of what their role is within the organization and what your role is as staff? Creating a decision matrix, leadership manual and onboarding your volunteers at the beginning of the association year starts you off on a good foot for working successfully together.

When new volunteers come on board, ask them how they want to be communicated with and then actually utilize that as often as possible. Do they have an assistant that they want looped in on certain requests (especially scheduling)? Is a text or a phone call a better alternative to email or is email the only way to go?

Whichever way you communicate, get to know their style and personality. Are they a nothing but business, straightforward communicator or do they like to engage in conversation prior to jumping in to the subject matter? Do they want a high-level response, or do they need a little more “meat”?

Being able to communicate efficiently and effectively to each leader in their “style” and preferred method will help to create a strong relationship and ultimately make the work easier for both you and the volunteer. There is, of course, a learning curve to this but the more you can figure your volunteers out, the easier exceeding their expectations become.

2. Be proactive.
Can you anticipate questions before you receive them? If so, answer them before they have to be asked. As an example, I like to annotate my check and credit card expense details for one of my clients so that they have an understanding of what each expense is for. It doesn’t take much time at all and it eliminates many questions that could come up.

Are there ways to streamline operations or do things in an easier way for both you and the volunteer? Create a well thought out proposal and present it – the worst that can happen is they don’t adopt it but, in most cases they are excited to see that you’re thinking about how to better the organization and agree to suggestions. As an example, one organization who holds annual elections wanted to send multiple email reminders. Staff are always aiming to streamline communications and not overwhelm in boxes. We suggested a schedule with rationale and proposed setting up a link on the member’s only part of the website so people didn’t have to look for the link in an email. The Nominations Committee chair was thrilled and appreciated the pro-active thinking.

3. Manage expectations and over deliver.
While we’re talking about exceeding expectations, some do need to be managed. During your onboarding process, talk about response time for emails and phone calls. Strive to respond within 24 hours of receiving the communication and, if you can get to it the same day, all the better!

Ensure that your volunteers have a clear understanding of turnaround time for various projects – not everything can be done same day. If you can anticipate that a project is going to take you awhile, be up front about it and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Then, when possible, over deliver. If you can get something done faster, they’ll be thrilled.

4. Do what you say you’re going to do.
This not only builds a strong, trusting relationship but it ensures the association will run as smoothly as possible.

5. Set them up for success.
What can you do to make your volunteers look good? Provide talking points ahead of meetings, annotate financials, talk ahead of time to ensure they have everything they need to understand what they’re talking about when they lead a board or committee meeting. When your volunteers look good, it’s a win for them and for you.

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How to develop strategic priorities using a breakout session model

 strategic planning

Many organizations create their five-year strategic plan and set it in stone, no matter the changes happening that may not fit within that plan. This could limit growth and create stagnancy. To make sure that doesn’t happen, check in on your plan routinely to make sure it is still moving you forward, not keeping you where you are.

A twist on the strategic planning meeting
We recently held a strategic planning meeting for a client who was asking “what’s next?" They have had great growth and developed a very successful stand-alone annual meeting. They had checked all of the boxes of their plan and are now free to explore other priorities that can create more exposure and growth for the organization.

This group does not have members, but the process we followed could certainly be adapted to a membership-based association. To ensure a wide range of opinions and input, all board and committee members were invited to attend the meeting along with representatives from partner organizations. A survey was sent to all invitees to get a sense of priorities for the annual meeting, communication with committee members (or members in general), and working with affiliated organizations. A copy of the survey results was sent to all the attendees prior to the meeting.

Prior to the meeting, the Treasurer worked with the organization's investment firm to come up with scenarios for the group to consider. Scenarios included spending additional dollars above current operating costs and made assumptions at aggressive investing versus more conservative investing. A copy of the strategy report was sent to all attendees to consider prior to the meeting and while discussing the priorities of the organization.

Topic areas to discuss during the planning session were developed and facilitators for each topic were selected. Facilitators were provided materials about their specific topic and some questions to consider as they facilitated their specific “workshop." These questions, along with the high-level survey results, financials, and a previous strategic planning report were sent to all attendees prior to the meeting.

Breakout sessions helped form priorities
The meeting started with a history of the organization. Since this association doesn’t have members, it was nice for those who hadn’t been as involved as others to hear about how they had grown and changed since inception.

Attendees were assigned to participate in one of the workshops during each of the four breakout sessions Participants were divided so that they all participated in each workshop and the same people wouldn’t always be in the same group. The first group in each workshop started at a fairly high level – essentially laying the ground work for the groups that followed. During each breakout group, the facilitators gave a brief recap of what happened in the group(s) prior and started to drill down into talking about creating new programs, policies, etc. At the end of day 1, the facilitators reported on the themes that came from their discussions. From those reports, staff identified 15 items that could be prioritized by the group.

On day 2, the treasurer gave a financial overview, helping attendees understand how adding programs or technology, etc. would impact the overall health of the organization’s finances. The 15 priorities were shown to the attendees and they voted on whether they were high, medium, or low priority (we asked that they choose 5 high, 5 medium and 5 low so that all were not high) and were weighted. Once the votes were all in, we reorganized the list and decided to dive in to the top five priorities.
After the planning session, the Executive Committee looked at the priorities and defined the scope of each. Three workgroups were developed to define infrastructure, administration and funding needed. As the workgroups move through their processes, they will be able to refer to the work that was done during the planning session and the financial overview to help guide their decisions and bring recommendations to the board.

This process has created stronger engagement in the organization and has started to define the “what’s next." Checking in on the progress of the workgroups and implementation of any new programs will be important in making sure that the “what’s next” is truly addressing the priorities of the organization and moving it forward.

 

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Staying out of the weeds: Allow your leaders to lead

decision matrix

Volunteer leaders are ambitious. They own businesses; they have full (or more than full) time jobs; they conduct research; they join their professional or trade association to learn more, to be involved, to make a difference in their field – whatever that may be.

As association professionals, it is our job to allow our leaders to lead and help keep them out of the weeds. Volunteer leaders should be doing the big, strategic thinking and planning that moves the organization forward. They shouldn’t be deciding how much coffee to order during a meeting break. There are a few great ways to empower your leaders to really lead and staff to manage operations.

1. Create a decision matrix
A decision matrix is just what it sounds like, it lists decisions that need to be made by the association and clearly lays out who should be making the related decision. A decision matrix can be used for the board of directors and for committees. Staff and volunteer leaders create the matrix together ensuring that everyone is on the same page in terms of who the decision maker is, who should be consulted for advice when making the decision and who simply just needs to be informed.

2. Leadership Manuals
If your organization doesn’t have one, it would behoove you to create a manual that contains the following:

  • Your organization’s mission, vision and values
  • A brief history/overview of the organization
  • Responsibilities as a volunteer leader
  • Policies and standard operating procedures
  • Roles and responsibilities for board members, committees, staff
  • Important resources

Creating a manual or handbook allows volunteer leaders to clearly understand their roles and responsibilities.

3. New Board Member Orientation
To go along with your Leadership Manual, new board members should receive an orientation — a personal welcome from the executive director and current president or designee that provides a general overview of what it means to be a board member and what specifically that means to the organization they are going to serve.

These tools provides leaders with transparency and clarity in decision making and are essential in keeping them looking at the big picture instead of all the small brush strokes.

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Running a successful association: It takes a village

brydgesteam

 

As in most things, running an association successfully takes a village of committed, talented people who listen, trust each other, and lean on each other for support. It’s important to check in with your team to make sure that the village continues to run efficiently, effectively, and collaboratively to ensure success.

Here are some good ways to make sure your team is successful and your village is strong:

1. Have an understanding of how you’re going to be with one another when times get tough. Running associations and meetings is full of fast-paced activities and doesn’t always come without problems. Having an understanding of how you’re going to treat one another and react to problems together when the tough stuff hits, will help you get through smoothly to the other side.

2. Good communication is key. Being able to effectively communicate with one another can make or break your team. Clear communication ensures that everyone is on the same page which is essential and will help to mitigate any problems that may arise.

3. Allow people to get excited about their projects and “own” them. Essentially, don’t micromanage. We all have our unique strengths, it’s important to allow people to let those strengths shine. When people are excited about the work that they do and can really “own” it, the work is better and the team is better.

4. Make sure everyone can be heard. Does each person on your team feel that they have a voice? That they can assert their opinion and have that opinion really taken into consideration? Do people feel like they can ask questions? Making sure that everyone on the team has a voice is important for collaboration and trust. It can also lead to exciting new ideas or foster a different way of thinking.

5. Listen to understand, not respond. This is one of my favorite Stephen Covey “habits.” Are you solely listening so that you can jump on a response right away or are you really understanding where your team is coming from and the way they understand things to be? Ask good questions to make sure you are understanding, not just responding.

6. Spend time with one another. Away from the office. Get to know each other on a personal level and have fun with one another. This will certainly help in listening to understand, building better communication, and increases the trust you have in one another.

7. Learn from the mistakes and celebrate the successes. We certainly try to be mistake-free, but, they are bound to happen. Be sure that you’re utilizing mistakes as learning opportunities and work as a team to come up with ways to “do it better” next time. In the same vein, identify ways that successes can be replicated in other areas, and make sure to celebrate even the smallest win!

Ensure your village is healthy and strong by checking in with your team regularly on these things. Ensure there is effective communication and that everyone is collaborating together to achieve a common goal.

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