Council Leadership Development
While some members are content to support TU through an annual contribution, one of TU’s strengths is that a large percentage of its members are active. Active members translate into strong chapters which leads to strong councils, all of which contribute to a unified, cohesive national organization. Developing active chapter-level leaders into council roles should be a high priority.
It is important to ensure that your council provides an environment that offers volunteers various opportunities to engage with the organization. When a new volunteers comes to a council meeting or event, does your council have a plan in place?
Some things to consider include:
- Make them comfortable. Designate a volunteer greeter at meetings, but ensure that the council chair acknowledges and speaks with all new volunteers. Consider offering a new leader orientation to inform and inspire.
- Get to know their interest and follow-up with them to match that interest to an initial volunteer task for the council. Reach out to their chapter president to find out more about them and their skills and interests.
- Have a plan. Do not let someone slip away because at the time they offered to help, you did not have something for them to do. Keep a list of things that people can always do to help the council.
- Keep it simple at first. Realize that often people feel intimidated to take on big tasks when they are new to an organization. Do not ask them to put out the next newsletter right off the bat; instead invite them to help stuff envelopes.
- Provide opportunity with varying levels of responsibility. Effective leaders create an organizational environment conducive to member involvement and the successful retention of loyal members.
- Organize a council nominating committee to focus on leadership recruitment and development.
Investing in Leadership
To drive leadership and the growth of council volunteers, it is important to set a culture where all council members are contributing and all are learning and growing together. Here are some of the effective ways to ensure your council is supporting and encouraging leadership development:
- Budget for council volunteer attendance at regional rendezvous training weekends and consider offering a “match” to chapters that send their volunteers to the regional rendezvous. Often times, new volunteer leaders gain the most out of attending these weekends and come back ready to step into more and larger roles.
- Monitor and encourage council and chapter volunteers to sign up for an attend online webinar trainings offered by TU. For example, if a special training is being offered on new membership recruitment tools, be sure to contact the council and chapter membership chairs and committee members and encourage them to sign up and attend.
- Plan to attend at least one meeting of each chapter board in the state on an annual basis. Whether attended by one council executive officer, or a team, investing the time to go to the chapter instead of expecting them to come to the council demonstrates a strong willingness to support and help those volunteers with their local opportunities and challenges. Many times, board members and committee volunteers of the chapter may not know the council exists, or what its function is, prior to hearing directly from council leadership.
- Encourage your council committees to organize and encourage their chapter counterparts to exchange information and attend trainings to build the collective knowledge of their focal area but also to build relationships between chapters and the council. For instance, your Veterans Service Partnership (VSP) Committee at the council level may organize a quarterly conference call for chapter VSP leaders with an in-person training in conjunction with a council meeting. This will impact the number of chapter leaders who express interest in council leadership in the future.
- Draft a chapter support plan to engage council leadership and facilitate communication and learning among chapter leaders. The more contact chapters have with the council, the more the learn about the council’s role as well as individual volunteer opportunities within the council.
- Organize leadership development opportunities for your chapter leaders to partake in at in-person council meetings and via webinars. This may include an opportunity to highlight successes or learn from missteps during a role specific forum. This may also be a more formal training. When you focus on topics that are helpful for chapter leaders like leadership recruitment, membership recruitment, and leadership support they will reap the benefits of the information but also experience the value of the council.
- Learn more about how other councils support their chapter leaders and consider sharing your efforts in the Leaders Forum.