Creating a Volunteer Emergency Succession Plan


How often has a board meeting started out,” The Secretary cannot make the meeting, we need someone to take notes.” Leaders of an organization with a volunteer leader emergency succession plan know immediately who  backs up the Secretary.

A volunteer leader emergency succession plan identifies a leader’s backup  when the leader cannot participate. Given most boards are made up of volunteers it is likely that the plan will be used on a customary basis.  The plan includes a contact list with the backup person listed next to each volunteer leader.  It should also include a library of important logins, passwords, and other board resources.

This type of plan should be created for all committees, boards, and volunteer organizational leader.  To help identify volunteer positions, ask the question: What are volunteers responsible for? Think broadly and include meetings, events, and other fundraising opportunities.

Communicating expectations to volunteers is critical for success. All positions, boards, and committees need less than a one page job description including expectations, duties, and responsibilities. Each board and committee needs a Chair and Vice or Co-Chair who are responsible for backing up one another as well as a plan outlining what and when objectives will be completed

For boards and committees begin by asking what is the end the group is working towards? Will it be planning event(s)?  Overseeing activities  by staff or contractors?

Organizations depend on volunteers. Volunteer positions have objectives and responsibilities like any other organization position. Job descriptions for volunteers should be similar to job descriptions for staff.

Inviting volunteers to participate in the creation of their job description and the volunteer emergency succession plan empowers them to take ownership of their work.  These activities also encourage leaders to reflect and evaluate their work.

Leaders and their backups should connect on a regular basis to update one another on modifications and position focus making it as easy as possible for backups to step in as needed. Creating these types of opportunities encourages volunteer leaders to mentor newer leaders and explore leadership positions with minimal commitment. Back up roles should be a minimum of a one year commitment.

Once a plan is created, it should be shared with the Executive Committee and staff leaders. It should be evaluated on an annual basis as part of a larger evaluation and leader succession planning process.

Creating a volunteer emergency succession plan is the first step in the development of a leadership succession plan. In the next blog I will focus on creating a staff emergency succession plan.


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