A year ago, the Ohio Bed & Breakfast Association, a client of ours, adopted a written recruitment policy. This year, their spring newsletter included the theme, “Wanted: B&B time and talent; Get involved and join the team!” and an advertisement calling for “a few good men and women.” A brochure describing committee projects of interest to members accompanied the newsletter.
Capping the spring recruitment drive will be a Leadership Conference on May 4. Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery’s keynote will address the growing importance of volunteer leadership in the modern business world. Attendees will have an opportunity to sign up for their free Internet listing during the one-day conference and to participate in round tables discussing industry issues, such as marketing, regulations, and media relations. Members also will be able to attend workshops covering leadership skills useful to both association and community service. Why all this activity to expand committees and identify board candidates? Two reasons. First, there’s “a whole lot of exciting stuff we want to do,” as one board member put it. Second, quality leadership will be the key to how successfully our efforts will fulfill members’ needs now and in the future.

The issue of relevance
Finding the caliber of leadership to cope with tomorrow’s challenges is one of the most pressing functions of the non-profit board today.
In board rooms across the country debate lately has centered on the issue of relevance. Associations, sometimes at a fever pitch, are struggling to redefine themselves in a dramatically changing world. No association is immune.
The Internet in particular is now challenging the association’s traditional role of marketing partner and information resource. Members are demanding that associations do more to justify their dues dollars, and they are becoming more discriminating and selective.
What is more, many local, state and national associations are young (less than 10 years old), small (less than 200 members) and entirely volunteer driven. A number must work within operating budgets that don’t cover adequate staff. Consequently, board volunteers are forced to perform much of the day-to-day administration - licking stamps, stuffing envelopes and other mundane chores. These time-consuming tasks bleed away from the board’s important functions of policy making and strategic planning.
Balanced on the double-edged sword of shrinking budgets and greater member expectations, the trend among associations in general has been to try to do more with less by downsizing and outsourcing. Associations have had to become super efficient and effective to survive, and that requires a top-shelf team of board and committee members. For associations with limited resources, the issue of leadership takes on a sense of urgency.

Finding the tools and the talent
Finding the next generation of leadership to take up the challenge is a process in which all members of the board can and should participate. If you do not have a recruitment policy in place, first assign the nominating or recruiting committee the task of developing one. Next, hold a brain storming session that involves the entire board of trustees to identify the skills and expertise the association will need in its future leaders. Review your strategic plan. It holds the answers to the type and level of skill and expertise the organization will need for its short-term (1-3 year), and long-term (3-5 year) goals. Questions to ask might include:
• What is the current composition of our volunteer work force? Take inventory of the talent, background and experience you currently have on board. Are there gaps in professional disciplines that it might be helpful to fill?
• What are the association’s “big ticket” projects? And do we have enough volunteers to cover the workload?

instance, if you hope to launch a public relations campaign to increase awareness of your industry standards, you may wish to recruit individuals skilled in writing press releases, cultivating media relations, or public speaking.
• Does the project fit the association’s budgetary constraints or will additional funds be needed? If fund raising is part of the mix, then one of your ideal volunteers might be an individual who is comfortable asking others for money. Perhaps you need someone with experience writing and obtaining grants.
Once basic questions have been addressed, you will have a clearer picture of the talent pool necessary to meet the association’s goals and objectives successfully. Now you can cast a wide net — through advertising, newsletters, and special mailings — to ensure potential candidates have an opportunity to express their interest in whatever positions need to be filled.

Leadership training
Volunteers give of themselves because they have a deep-rooted desire to help the organization. Their sole reward comes from the satisfaction of participating in a job well done.
Proper board orientation and training helps the “freshman” volunteer hit the ground running with confidence. They develop a historical perspective and can offer informed insight during discussion. Start your new recruits off right with a full year’s supply of past minutes, financial and committee reports, policies and procedures, and other association materials to make their term of office productive and interesting. Leadership seminars can help. They have the added benefit of enhancing skills members may find useful in other settings, including their businesses.
The first rule in association management is to maximize the contribution of our volunteers.Volunteers, after all, have made a commitment to contribute one of their most valuable commodities to the good and welfare of the association — Their time. Adequate preparation and planning will ensure that precious resource is wisely invested.

Ways to pick group leaders

Consider these approaches for selecting a team leader:
• Appoint the leader—but only if you believe team members are not ready to choose one themselves. Caution: Make sure a good match exists between team and organization needs and your appointee’s leadership style.
• Let the team pick up the leader. Strategy: To avoid a choice you can’t live with, craft selection guidelines and have the team adhere strictly to those guidelines in selecting a leader.
• Rotate leader duties among team members. Before you take this route, answer these questions: “Do all team members have to serve a term?” “How long will the term last?” “How will we train them?” “Will they get extra pay while serving as leaders?” “Will the responsibilities be the same for all leaders, or will we tailor them to fit each person’s strengths?”
Source: Quality Digest, QCI International, 40 Declaration Drive, Ste. 100 C, Chico, CA 95973, quoted fromCommunications Briefings.