For nonprofits who must beg someone to become board chair, it may feel impossible to imagine an orderly transition. But, if your organization has a leadership pipeline*, you cannot imagine how any board functions without one. If you are scrambling for your next board chair. There is a better way. But, that better way is through a self-reflective, reality check. And then, you must do the work to make change happen.
Fact 1: There are people who love your nonprofit. If there were not, you would not remain in existence.
Fact 2: Becoming your next board chair is unappealing to even your closest supporters. If it were not, they would be waving their arms above their head trying to get your attention. After all, they are your closest supporters.
Fact 3: It is unappealing to become your next board chair because it is too big a job. Or there is too much baggage. Or the incumbent has made it a full-time, day job. Or it is not respected internally. Or the role is not respected externally. Or some other reason that you could easily identify if you gave it some thought.
Fact 4: Governance matters. Having up-to-date bylaws, a defined governance structure, and having a board manual creates confidence that the next board chair’s job (or any board position) has defined parameters. You can make volunteering more appealing by defining boundaries before they start.
Fact 5: In addition to governance and structure, there is a better way which involves a leadership pipeline*. If everything that isn’t getting done by staff or other volunteers automatically falls to the board chair, the job is too overwhelming for most volunteers. If you have a vice chair, or some similar role who helps shadows and assists the chair while learning the job, it will be easier. If you have a few people who know they are in the pipeline, they will help because they care. And because they want help when they step into the role. We are all a little self-serving even in our volunteer roles and that is okay.
Fact 6: You can get started on your own by reading MJA’s How to Engage New Board Members: Strengthening Your Nonprofit Board. Click here to learn about this invaluable resource and order your own copy—either in print or in digital format.
Fact 7: This may seem impossible, but you can turn it around for your nonprofit. If, after reading this, you still feel like you will be scrambling for your next board chair. Let’s talk.
Sign up for a free 30-minute consultation. It won’t solve all your problems, but it can send you down the right path.
*In this case I am defining a leadership pipeline as at least one person who is on deck for the chief volunteer leadership role. It could be that you have 4 vice-chairs who move up to board chair or that you have 1 chair-designate who is learning about the role before they step into it. Either way, such a process provides for an orderly transition of leadership.