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.