8 Ways National Associations Can Help Chapters Find Leaders

Of all the support and services we get from our national organizations, the one getting the least attention is recruiting leaders. Yes, each of my national associations (we manage five chapters for five different associations) offers leadership development at some level. Most also offer checklists for recruiting leaders and ideas on recognizing them. But, could national associations do more? Could they help us in actually recruiting leaders?

Based on the Chapter Dashboard, an evaluation and monitoring tool, leadership is one of four make-or-break elements for success. Success is defined as having the right combination of people on the leadership team with volunteers in the wings. Success is not necessarily the size or scope of a board, but rather the complement of people prepared to and motivated to lead the organization. So where do those people come from and how can our national organization help?

Here are a couple of ideas from the leaders who are sitting on the chapter boards we work with at Mariner.

  1. Be an active partner in recruiting members to serve on our boards at the local level. For example, help us identify members who are active on the national level (e.g, call frequently or use national programs and services). But don’t stop there. Give the member a personal call asking them to serve at the local level.
  2. When a national board member or committee member has completed their term, ask them to consider serving at the local level for a change rather than finding another national position for them.
  3. Keep a list of local/state committee, board and volunteer opportunities to which you can refer members. This list could be posted on your website, listed in the newsletter and inserted in new member packets and renewal confirmations. 
  4. If you offer professional certification, consider adding local volunteer service to your requirements. For example, ASAE’s CAE recertification process allows for 2 hours of credit to be given per year for service as an officer of an association, or professional society, or for service as chairman, vice-chairman of a committee, section, or special interest group.
  5. Ask your national leaders to commit to recruiting colleagues in their organizations to sit on local boards. For the Chesapeake Chapter of RMA, one bank president on the national committee actively recruited in his own institution and contacted other colleagues for the chapter.
  6. Make it easy for members to invite others to volunteer. For example, the Senior Corps offers an “Ask A Friend Now” on-line option where you can send an email invitation. See http://www.volunteerfriends.org/ask_friend.asp.
  7. Make a personal introduction for a current chapter leader to a future leader.
  8. Take care in recruiting for national positions that you don’t drain a local chapter’s pool. One of our national organizations has unfortunately twice tapped our emerging leaders for national leadership leaving us short-handed.

Across the board, most local groups cite lack of volunteers as one of their top concerns. We also know that the #1 way to recruit volunteers is by personally asking. By pro-actively helping us at the local level invite members to volunteer, a national organization is addressing a #1 concern.

What do you think – are these suggestions actionable?